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Summer occupancies at campgrounds and RV parks across the United States were at least as strong as last year’s figures and, in many instances, outpaced 2004 levels, despite rising fuel costs, according to park operators and industry officials.
“I think people did better this summer than last,” said Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) in Falls Church, Va. “Occupancy levels were up and dollars are up due to people staying longer.”
Business over Fourth of July weekend, for example, was up 6%, according to the Woodall’s/ARVC RV Park and Campground Survey, with an overage occupancy rate of 84% over the long weekend. Reservation levels were also running about 6% ahead of last year’s figures, the survey found.
Profaizer said business was “a little off” in parts of New England. “But at the same time,” she said, “some parks did really well up there.”
“The Best Parks in America affiliates in the Northeast have had a very strong summer camping season,” said David Gorin, president and CEO of the Best Parks in America marketing group, noting that Lake George Escape in Lake George, N.Y., Skyway Camp Resort in Greenfield Park, N.Y., Chacorua Camping Village in Tamworth, N.H., and Cherry Hill Park in College Park, Md., all reported increased camper nights and revenue.
“Affiliated (Best Parks in America) parks in other parts of the country report typically strong seasons similar to those experienced in the last three years,” Gorin said.
Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) said its nearly 500 parks collectively had a strong summer season, with year-to-date camper nights surging roughly 6% ahead of last year’s figures, according to Ken Stellmacher, vice president of marketing for the Billings, Mont.-based campground chain.
Regionally, KOA saw its occupancies increase by 10% in the Northeast, 8% in the Southeast, 6% in the Rocky Mountain region, 4% in the Pacific Northwest and 3% in the Southwest.
The strong showing in the Northeast was significant, Stellmacher said, because that region had suffered from very wet summers in 2003 and 2004. He added that the four hurricanes that hit Florida in 2004 had little effect on KOA’s snowbird business, so the 2005 Southeast camping season got off to a good start.
KOA was initially concerned about its parks’ performance in the Rocky Mountain states, since that region tends to rely more on long-distance travelers who may affected more by rising fuel costs. But parks throughout the Rocky Mountain region did well, Stellmacher said.
Some state campground officials also reported very strong summer occupancies.
Gorin, who serves as executive director of the Virginia Campground Association (VCA), said Virginia parks reported very strong business from the Shenandoah Mountains to the coast, with mid-week business exceeding past performance and expectations.
The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO), meanwhile, also saw a significant increase in occupancies, according to Brian Schaeffer, TACO’s executive director and CEO. “In the past 60 days, I’ve talked to 25 to 30 parks and I would say the ratio is five to one, with the majority of parks being up anywhere from 5 to 12%,” Schaeffer said, adding that the remaining parks either had no change in business levels or they suffered a decline in business.
“I attribute some of the downward trend to people who have either changed their marketing strategy or have not necessarily and specifically kept up with some of the competition in terms of amenities,” Schaeffer said. “But those folks who are putting money back into their parks and are paying attention to their amenities are up.”