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Consumers look to RVs and camping this summer to escape COVID-19, survey suggests

Site owners are upping their game to be as safe as possible during the pandemic

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Photo (c) bogdankosanovic - Getty Images
Travelers are trying to stay clear of COVID-19 this summer, and it seems they’re looking at wide-open spaces and outdoor venues to do it.

A new survey of 2,000 campgrounds and RV parks found that advanced bookings for this summer’s camping season are up 50 percent for nearly two-thirds of the respondents. Twenty-four percent reported even higher figures, with advanced bookings up over 80 percent. 

In fact, the whole campground and RV park industry is experiencing a boom. The sector has grown by more than six percent per year since 2015, and revenue is forecasted to top $16 billion. The RV Industry Association estimates that the number of new recreational vehicles in 2021 could possibly eclipse 502,000 -- a 20 percent increase over 2020.

"The outdoors and camping provide a safer alternative to other forms of travel and vacations," stated Mark Koep, founder and CEO of CampgroundViews.com, the survey’s sponsor. "We expect 2021 to be the year of camping with record numbers of Americans camping in tents, RVs and glamping accommodations.”

Prepping for the rush

Campground and RV park managers are working ahead of the rush as best they can, and they’re trying to make sure their facilities adapt to a pandemic-produced change in how they do business. ConsumerAffairs asked Koep what things consumers who choose to vacation at an RV park or campground can expect.

“Campground and RV Park owners are very aware of the increased demand from a changed traveling consumer. After a record year in 2020, many parks changed their procedures and policies to allow campers to social distance and travel ‘safer,’” he said.

The following are some things that parks have told Koep they’re doing in the face of the recent demand:

  • Touchless check-in has been a big addition, with some sites allowing guests to enter and drive straight to their campsite without needing to come into the office.

  • Campgrounds have vastly improved their booking process during the winter by adding better and more modern online reservation engines.

  • Many locations anticipated the extra demand and worked to add additional campsites or improve outdated ones.

  • Campgrounds also increased their "glamping" options by providing RVs and tents to non-owners so they could also experience the camping environment.

  • Camping is naturally a socially distant form of travel -- some parks are emphasizing this space by purposely closing off in-between sites to further separate campers.

  • As a result of all the new campers, parks are being proactive about providing education materials and additional support to help campers get up to speed on etiquette and how to hook up to utilities. 

  • Changes have been made to public amenities like gathering areas and family events to promote safer interaction that is tailored to the guest's risk tolerance (i.e. they can be as close or as far as they feel comfortable.)

Site owners have also gotten more tech-savvy, according to Koep. "The timing is perfect as we release campground virtual tours and allow campers to see the roads and sites while being able to click and book specific campsites," he added.

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