One of the country’s biggest recreational vehicle shows is under way at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa.
The St. Petersburg Times reported that dealers and manufacturers are saying 2006 was a good year, even without FEMA boosting demand for trailers — which it did after the hurricane-heavy seasons of the previous two years.
Through November, manufacturers had shipped almost 370,000 RVs, putting 2006 on track to beat 2005’s record of 384,000 units.
More than 1,300 recreational vehicles are on display at this year’s Florida RV SuperShow, and “recreational vehicle” is an encompassing term.
For $3,000, you can hitch a folding camping trailer to your van or pickup. If you have a couple million dollars to drop, you can hide from the world in a 45-foot motorhome with big-screen plasma TVs and a full-size fridge.
RV shipments have posted gains for five consecutive years. Industry insiders say the inconvenience of flying is one reason.
Lost luggage, late flights and higher ticket prices were recurring themes in airline travel this past year, and the liquids ban didn’t help.
“On an RV, you can throw in your golf clubs, throw in your hunting knife, throw in your fishing equipment,” said David Kelly, marketing director for the Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA). “The airlines keep telling you, ‘No, no, no, and by the way, take your shoes off.’”
RVing is also starting to tap a younger crowd.
A 2005 study by the University of Michigan found that the under-35 demographic is posting the largest gains in RV ownership. With that in mind, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) plans to air “Go RVing” commercials during the upcoming season of American Idol.
Sport utility recreational vehicles (SURVs), or “toy haulers,” which have gained popularity in the past couple of years, are attracting younger buyers.
Heather Hernandez, who works in sales for Frontier RV, pointed to the Hyperlite travel trailer with sporty graphics on the outside and a flat-panel TV inside, as a big seller among younger crowds.
“When I pictured an RV in the beginning,” said Hernandez, 22, “I pictured my grandparents.”
RVs remain popular because, as a general rule, they are more resilient than other vehicles to fluctuations in gas prices. That’s partly because RVers can enjoy their vehicles even when they’re not using gas.
Bob Phebus, director of sales and marketing for Marathon Coach, said RVs have two advantages over boats: There are more places to store them and more places to take them.
“They’re not getting out and building resorts on the water,” Phebus said.