After a season of uncertainty and campground closures, anticipation for the start of this year’s camping season is palpable. Those who recently discovered RVing are looking forward to taking back control of their travel, while veteran RVers are craving the chance to get back out there. Because of lingering international travel restrictions and all the pent-up travel demand, some are calling this the year we “rediscover the lower 48.” It’s exciting and inspiring to be able to share a lot of good news about campgrounds and the RV lifestyle, perhaps the best and most flexible mode of getting out there and exploring North America. Demand for a travel alternative emerged and many found RVs fit the bill. “Our survey results show that Americans consider RVing and camping almost twice as safe as other types of accommodations such as staying in a hotel. We are also seeing that 66 percent of Americans consider camping in an RV of little-to-no risk compared with 38 percent who feel the same way about flying on a plane to a destination,” said David Coletto, CEO of polling firm Abacus Data. RVs also proved effective for isolation, and the industry was gradually deemed essential across many states while other industries remained shuttered.
Facts and Figures to Know About RVing Post-COVID
May 11, 2021
Despite the shutdown, the industry revved back up quickly to meet surging popularity. RV shipments finished 2020 with 430,412 units, up 6 percent against 2019, on par with the third best annual shipment total on record. “The COVID-19 pandemic has struck a body blow to our nation in so many ways, but the RV industry has managed to provide a glimmer of hope by allowing people to enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle while also controlling their environment,” said RV industry Association president Craig Kirby. “The shipment numbers for 2020 reflect the surge in demand that began in early summer and continued for the remainder of the year.” Today, most dealerships and campgrounds are open with few limitations! You’ll still definitely want to look into access roads and restrictions at certain facilities or destinations. And book early! A March 2020 survey of 2,000 campgrounds and RV parks performed by CampgroundViews.com found that advanced bookings at campgrounds and RV parks are up 50 percent over average for the 2021 camping season. 24 percent of respondents are seeing advanced bookings up over 80 percent for the same period. Here is a list of some valuable resources for tracking restrictions and campsite availability: State-by-state travel restrictions CDC domestic travel advice AAA travel restrictions map State-by-state campground closures and responses Brown University COVID risk assessment map Camping in Canada during COVID While we’re at it, here is a list of the remaining U.S. National Park Free Entrance days:
- Aug. 4: One year anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
- Aug. 25: National Park Service Birthday
- Sept. 25: National Public Lands Day
- Nov. 11: Veterans Day
All signs point to a golden age for RVers coming out of the pandemic. In addition to the relative safety of RVing, all kinds of interesting research points to surging popularity and investment of RVs due to shifting perspectives on travel.
- Camping participation grew 28 percent with 7.9 million additional participants in 2020. (Outdoor Industry Association (OIA)
- 8.1 million more Americans hiked in 2020 versus 2019, as the participation rate grew 16.3 percent. (OIA)
- Freshwater fishing added 3.4 million participants in 2020, a gain of 8.6 percent. (OIA)
- International air arrivals fell 74 percent last year. (United Nations World Tourism Organization)
- Increased interest in road and RV travel - Currently, there are 11 million RV owners in the US, but many more – 46 million in total– are planning to RV this year alone, continuing the upward trend. (Harvest Hosts)
- Americans are planning more than before - While it’s unsurprising that most people (76 percent) are planning to travel more than they did in 2020, planned travel is also exceeding 2019 numbers. (Harvest Hosts)
- Changes in work/life balance - Approximately one-third of respondents (31 percent) plan to travel more now that remote work is an option. (Harvest Hosts)
With more travelers discovering the virtues of RVing, we’ll need more campsites. The industry is responding. In addition to the ramp of RV production, The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds estimates that more than 53,000 new RV sites will be built across the country this year. The estimate was based on a survey of 516 campground and RV park operators across the U.S. Another strong indicator is that KOA, which had opened 15 campgrounds between 2007 and 2019, opened three in 2020 and has 12 more in development. Finally, talk about good timing, the Great American Outdoors Act (GOAO) was passed in 2020. Just in time for this RVing boom, the landmark law is the biggest investment in public lands in decades and promises updates and additions that accommodate modern RVs. It’s been a wild year. Like everyone, we had our ups and downs, but it appears the community of RVers and the industry are stronger than ever—more excitement, more resources and a bigger RV family than ever. We’ll keep working to make it possible for more and more travelers to enjoy RVing and can’t wait to see what comes next.