In 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism industry was heavily impacted. The United States alone reported losses of $147.2 billion in tourism revenue. However, while this was happening, 2020 also saw record numbers of people interested in in all modes of camping and campground accommodations. Camping equipment – including RVs – saw huge boosts in sales as people searched for a way to escape from everyday lives in the absence of far-away destination travel. Many organizations and park owners reported increases to their annual bookings as well as interest in longer operation seasons.
However, with this big boost now several years past, the question for many is whether the camping industry can sustain its growth post-pandemic?
Over the summer of 2020, the camping industry exploded beyond what anyone had anticipated. According to the Growth of Camping Amid Covid-19: A Fall 2020 Update, approximately 46% of campers had either restarted camping after taking a hiatus for many years, or they found themselves taking it up for the first time. In 2021and 2022 we saw further increases mainly in RV ownership and interest in ‘glamping’ vacations.
During the last few years RVs remained the preferred choice of accommodation with RV ownership still seeing some increase year to year. However, with the demographics switching to more millennials and Generation X, the ideal park amenities are also starting to shift.
As someone who actively camped prior to the pandemic, it was exhilarating to see so many people try camping for the first time – or even for the first time in a long time – but it isn’t without its drawbacks, the camping industry has been slow to catch up to the demand and we see many people frustrated with being unable to book or even unhappy with the remaining options. It seems like this trend is here to stay for a while and operators and developers should be ready to capitalize on this movement.
Even after the removal of pandemic related restrictions, camping has remained as an affordable vacation option that entices more new people every year. Being aware of what those customers are looking for is key to unsure your park is successful. Developers should plan for continued site attraction to encourage annual camper visitation. New amenities can be phased in over several years to continually evolve the camping experience. Design interventions such as hiking and biking trails, lookout points, outdoor kitchens, playgrounds and water-based recreation are several design solutions that could be considered. For a more in-depth look at some of the impacts a well-designed master plan can have on your parks, check out my article on "How to turn your RV park and campground into an absolute hospitality haven".
Although the initial surge has passed, the camping industry's future hinges on its ability to sustain momentum. Post-pandemic, camping's safety and affordability allure persist, transforming it from a trend to a lasting pursuit. To ensure longevity, operators must adapt to demand, enhance amenities and continuously evolve the camping experience. This enduring movement presents opportunities for developers to create attractive, well-equipped camping destinations.