Screen-Shot-2014-12-05-at-5.58.34-PM-300x169The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) ended the 2014 Outdoor Hospitality Conference and Expo (OHCE) on Friday (Dec.5)  in Las Vegas with the results of an ARVC-commissioned survey of outdoor leisure travel.

Peter Yesawich, vice chairman of MMGY Global, detailed the findings for the ARVC crowd, telling them, “You happen to be in this wonderful point in time when the stars are in alignment for your industry, your business.”

A quarterly leisure-travel survey by MMGY earlier this year finally grew beyond the benchmark set by the survey in 2007, and it’s continued to rise significantly, Yesawich said. “We’ve never seen a brighter horizon line for the leisure-travel business,” he said. “It’s a remarkably bright horizon.”

In performing the survey for ARVC, Yesawich said his organization found some good signs. Some 12% of Americans took a camping, hiking or climbing vacation in the last 12 months, which is up from 105 in 2012, he said. “This is a growing industry.”

Looking at outdoor enthusiasts over the last year, 40% hadn’t gone camping, 30% had in public campgrounds and 30% had in private campgrounds.

Of the 30% who’d camped at public campgrounds, more than half — 57% — would be willing to consider camping in private campgrounds, Yesawich reported. There are many similarities between public and private campers, though there are significant differences: Public campers are more likely to research their travel online but to unplug while camping, and they tend to prefer solitude and nature rather than the community aspect found in private parks, according to the survey.

Still, of those public campers who’d consider private campgrounds, a full 35% said they don’t know how to find a privately owned campground, and half say they prefer cabins or cottages.

That leaves a huge opportunity for the campground sector, Yesawich said. He suggested private campgrounds need to be creative about getting those campers into their parks, because once they do, the odds are they’ll keep coming back. “Be bold,” he said. “Introduce incentives to reward trial, leverage the perceived quality of your facilities and make private-site information easy to ‘look and book.’”

Even the noncampers may be surprised at what’s available in private campgrounds, since Yesawich reported that 67% said they don’t camp because they want real showers and bathrooms, 63% said they want to sleep in a warm bed with a roof on their head, 52% don’t want to sleep on the ground and 50% believe special equipment is needed for camping — all of which is addressed by the growing trend toward rental accommodations in RV parks and campgrounds across North America.

ARVC plans to double its marketing efforts next year to reach what President Paul Bambei termed the “low-hanging fruit,” the campers at public parks and campgrounds, and drive them to ARVC’s consumer site, gocampingamerica.com.

The conference saw roughly 650 registrants and between 900 and 1,000 total attendees, with 105 vendors at the trade show, according to Bambei and to ARVC Chairwoman Marcia Galvin.