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This summer’s campground business was generally flat, compared to the summer of 2003, largely because of wet weather across much of the Midwest, the Northeast and parts of Canada, according to preliminary reports from campground operators and industry officials.
Rising gas prices also appear to have affected travel patterns, particularly out West in varying degrees.
“It seems to depend where you are as to whether or not you are doing as well or better than last year,” Linda Profaizer, president of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) in Falls Church, Va., told Woodall’s Campground Management.
“It seems like parks closer to large populations are having a decent year. The Northeast seems to be doing pretty well. But the Midwest has been spotty. Rain and, to some extent, gas prices have been a factor.”
“We think high fuel prices hit travel trends harder than we anticipated at the start of the year,” said Mike Gast, director of communications for Billings, Mont.-based Kampgrounds of America, Inc. (KOA). “This is also shown in U.S. national park visitor statistics, which also started out strong and went flat.”
Year-to-date camper nights were up a nominal 1.2% at KOA franchisees through Aug. 21, although registration revenue increased by 4.5%, Gast said. However, year-to-date camper nights in company-owned KOAs were up 7% through the week ending Aug. 28, reflecting continuing consumer interest in the resort destinations where company-owned KOAs are located, Gast said. Registration revenue at company owned KOAs was also up 12%, he said.
“For franchise campgrounds, the Southeast region was up 8.3% and the Northeast was up 1.2%,” Gast said, while KOAs in the Northwest saw their occupancies decline 2.3% because of rising fuel costs and a wetter-than-usual spring.
Milford, Ohio-based Leisure Systems, Inc., which operates the Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp Resorts chain, experienced similar trends.
“Overall, we’ve seen an increase revenuewise from last year, with occupancy being flat to slightly above (last summer’s figures) across the system,” said Rob Schutter, Leisure Systems’ COO.
Yogi Bear park revenue has been up this year, however, reflecting the addition of cabins and park models as well as increasing consumer purchases at camp stores and rate increases in several park locations, Schutter said.
Some state campground association directors also noted that campgrounds generally did well this summer.
“Even with the wet weather, Maine campgrounds have been very busy this summer,” said David L. Berg, second vice president of the Maine Campground Owners Association (MECOA) and part owner of Red Apple Campground in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Brian Schaeffer, CEO and executive director of the Texas Association of Campground Owners, noted that the summer campground business in the Lone Star State was at least as strong as last summer’s, and even stronger in some places.
“Parks in the Corpus Christi area had their best summer ever this summer,” Schaeffer said.
The seasonal camping business also was up across Texas, he said.
“Everybody is saying that their monthly business this summer has done very well,” he said, adding, “There seems to be more local visitors – an hour or two or maybe three away (from the campgrounds).”
Schaeffer said the fact that many parks attracted more visitors from their immediate areas may reflect higher fuel costs, though he also noted that fuel costs in Texas – averaging $1.70 to $1.80 per gallon in late August – were lower than those of surrounding states.