The COVID-19 edition of the North American Camping Report reveals implications to the camping market, about when and how travelers may wish to start traveling once again. Findings were based on a survey conducted of North American leisure travelers in late April 2020 to obtain a real-time perspective on camping. “Research shows the camping industry may rebound sooner than other forms of travel, and may even gain strength later in the year, due to its consideration as a safe way to resume travel among COVID-19 health precautions.” 

As we know, this study rang true in some areas of the US, more specifically in our local markets, where we’ve witnessed this spike already.  

Read on to see how those findings look against the latest Longwoods WAVE 16 Study from July 2020, and how the RV Industry Association notes a surge of sales, with areas like Kansas citing an 83% increase, *and all across the US, a new market of guests coming into the parks.  

In April 2020, the Kampground Owners Association sponsored a survey to be conducted by Calm Consulting Group, which led to the publication of findings in a Special Report: Camping & COVID – an offshoot of their traditional North American Camping Report.  

This report produced the following key findings:

  • Campers plan to take their planned camping trip this year, and non-campers say they are now interested in camping due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
  • Leisure travelers – including both campers and non-campers – rank camping as the safest form of travel to resume once restrictions are lifted.
  • Camping, glamping, and road trips may replace other types of planned trips in 2020.
  • COVID-19 concerns will impact how campers camp in the short term, including smaller group sizes, camping closer to home, and accommodation choices.
  • Interest in RV camping among both campers and non-campers can be attributed to concerns of cleanliness at other accommodations like hotels or resorts, as well as interest in avoiding communal facilities.
  • Once travelers feel it is safe to travel again, spending time outdoors with family is what leisure travelers are looking forward to most.

Keep in mind, this was conducted back in April. And just look at us now! 

Woodall’s Campground Management reports that after a period of uncertainty, with parks and resorts across the US experiencing delayed openings, shutdowns of certain activities, or limited access to amenities, we are seeing an explosion of RV sales across the US. J.E. Cornwell, owner of KC RVS states, “I’ve been in and around this business for around 25 years, and I have never seen anything close to this. Even in the best of years, there was nothing like this.” The RV Industry Association attributes the sales surge to people’s desire to simply get the heck out of the house. Daryn Anderson, Sales Manager for a local RV Dealer goes on to say, “I think people are quarantining, but they’re also tired of sitting inside their houses and not being able to go out and do things,” Anderson said. “They’re far enough away from the next person, and they can still have a little bit of an adventure and be able to enjoy themselves.” RV retailers reported demand across the board, including new and used travel trailers, motorhomes, and pop-up trailers. However, things weren’t so pretty in early Spring, as we all remember. Several of these retailers, similar to our Kampgrounds, were shut down after being deemed non-essential. With the RV retailers closing their doors, manufacturers and vendors supplying those products created supply problems.  

“The industry all the sudden had a huge flux of campers — wannabe campers, new campers or guys that had their campers and they got them dusted off,” Cornwell said. “We were now in a new realm. The problem was when we were all shut down, so were the manufacturers.” While manufacturers are still trying to keep up with the swing in demand, seasoned campers are using the opportunity to upgrade their units – giving new campers the used models to start their journey.   

Chelsea More, a WI resident, recently bought a 1996 Tahoe Mallard with her husband Joe. More said the purchase was “mainly due to COVID,” since the couple was struggling to keep two children under the age of 5 entertained during quarantined. And I think we can all appreciate that struggle!

“We got a camper and have been able to see places we may never have experienced in the past, and while most places are between 1-2 hours away, they are places we have never visited. Being stuck home was tough and this allowed our family to still hike, bike, and get out to explore nature. Not to mention swim, since our area pools are shut down for the summer.” The More’s also cited being able to use their own kitchen and bathroom, secluded from public use, as a big contributor to their purchase decision.

Some RV parks and campgrounds also are seeing a boom in business. Leslie Sherman is an office attendant at Campus RV Park in Independence, KS. Over the pandemic, the park has “taken reservations from vacationers, locals trying to get out of the house and even a range of traveling workers such as first responders”, she said.  

This information is uplifting and shows a true testament to the grit and ability to bounce back for the camping industry. Great news, since trends still indicate people choosing a very small radius of desired travel. Based on the latest COVID-19 Travel Sentiment Study-WAVE 16 from Longwoods International, “the percentage of American travelers who now feel safe traveling outside their community has fallen to 38%, the lowest level since mid-May. About half of travelers say that the pandemic will greatly impact their decision to travel in the next six months, with that percentage steadily increasing in the past six weeks after previous declines.”  These results emphasize the desire for people to stay somewhat close to home, limiting air travel, and confirm the thought that people are looking to do more activities like camping in the remainder of 2020.  

Other insights from the latest study include thoughts on face masks.  “About 60% prefer destinations which require face masks in public, with a third of those reporting they will ONLY visit destinations with mandatory face mask orders.” On the opposite side of the spectrum, “only 9% are less likely to visit a destination which requires face masks, with 3% refusing to visit destinations which require face masks.”  

“With the coronavirus pandemic surging across the country, the required use of face masks has become an important consideration when making travel decisions,” said Amir Eylon, President and CEO of Longwoods International. “Destinations which require face masks are likely to see more visitors than those who do not have such requirements.” In other words, whatever your personal beliefs, the guests’ perception is that face masks being required seems to have the current majority vote. Be sure to make your guests feel safe!

Based on all the information we’re currently seeing, our industry should expect to continue to see a steady business through the season, as from what health experts state, the pandemic isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.   So let’s take a breath, prepare ourselves for guests that will need our help, and buckle up for the rest of the season!  Please also watch for communication from our KOA Owner’s Association office as we compile your success stories, and ways to cut expenses, to make this season as successful as possible.