Hotels & Lodging

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Camping Industry Report Reveals Need for More Campsites, Despite COVID

31 Dec, 2020

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

COVID? What COVID? We already know outdoor sports have exploded in growth over the past year. What we may not realize: how hard the RV and camping industry is working in order to keep pace. A new report shows more than 53,000 campsites are expected to be built in the coming year.

It’s surprising, unless you consider how much use existing campgrounds have gotten as more families camp together and more people discover the outdoors – building on a growth trend that had been in place for some time.

SGB News first broke the story, noting that the 2020 Industry Trends and Insights Report, released by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds.

According to SGB News, “The report includes data that shows that COVID-19 affected parks (some more than others) in a variety of ways in 2020, including impacting shoulder seasons and causing a wide swing in occupancy rates and profits.  Still, despite the challenges 2020 provided, the numbers show the industry was resilient and ready for continued expansion and growth into 2021.”

“Despite a year in which our industry dealt directly with the challenges of COVID-19 — a roller-coaster economy, travel changes, delayed openings, restrictions to amenities—the privately-owned RV park and campground industry remains strong and the future bright,” said ARVC President and CEO Paul Bambei.

The survey found lower numbers of hospitality owners and operators saying that they were seeing increased business over last year; 40 percent of respondents reporting increased main season occupancy in 2020 compared to the previous year, down from 49 percent who reported occupancy growth in 2019.

And while a nearly 10% loss isn’t awful, this next figure was a bit more so: 29 percent of this year’s respondents indicated their park suffered lower occupancy levels in 2020, a large jump from the 8 percent that reported decreased occupancy in 2019.

The study anticipates more than 53,000 new sites constructed in the next 12 months. These numbers continue to contradict anecdotal comments made previously in the industry suggesting private campgrounds were running out of room to grow. 

“The outdoor hospitality industry has been experiencing rapid growth for the past decade, while the COVID-19 pandemic caused a minor dip, the number of people interested in camping rapidly expanded as a result,” said Bambei. “Campground owners need to be prepared to expand and improve their parks to keep up with this increased demand and they need to know the data so that their parks are prepared to accommodate a new brand of camper.” 

Oh, and speaking of that new brand of camper. ARVC’s Bambei notes that the study also drills down into more details about rates, amenities and popular site types, reporting results by park size and region, ownership statistics and more.  

“For example, if an owner is looking to target the emerging market of millennial campers, they can cross-reference this data and KOA’s data showing that millennial campers prefer park models over standard spaces,” said Bambei. “It removes some of the guesswork and helps an owner make a sound business decision based on hard numbers.”

ARVC members can access the survey free; others can purchase it by clicking here.

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