Although campgrounds have been slow to participate in the first-ever national occupancy survey, preliminary data collected from private parks in several areas around the country indicate strong demand for rental units in the weeks leading up to summer.
“It shows really strong rental occupancy, which is not surprising considering that cabins and yurts are very popular in the industry right now,” said Ann Emerson, associate publisher of Woodall’s Publications Corp., which is co-sponsoring the occupancy survey with the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
Emerson added that the survey reveals strong demand for virtually every kind of rental unit, including park models, site-built cabins and tipis.
Emerson is urging more campgrounds to sign up to improve the depth and accuracy of the ongoing national survey, which is open to private parks in the U.S. and Canada, regardless of whether they are ARVC members.
“We’ve had some really strong responses from certain areas of the country and not as strong in others,” she said, adding that she anticipates that ARVC and Woodall’s will spend much of the year promoting the survey to campground operators.
ARVC and Woodall’s together sent out nearly 7,000 e-mail messages in April asking campground operators to participate in the first ongoing national occupancy survey of its kind. The survey ultimately aims to track weekly occupancy trends and spending patterns, providing campgrounds and RV parks with the ability to measure their performance against that of other parks, both in their same geographic regions and across the country. The information should be particularly relevant to park operators considering buying, selling or expanding.
Campground officials also hope the survey will raise the economic profile of the campground sector, which, unlike the hotel and motel industries, has historically been unable to provide in-depth, national occupancy data to the news media.
Statistics for the ARVC-Woodall’s survey will be collected from participating campground and RV park operators who enter their weekly occupancy figures, store sales and other information on a secure website administered by the Michigan State University. Numbers will be crunched according to market area. No park-specific information will be released.
“To see the results, you have to be participating in the survey,” Emerson said. “You are sent an electronic printout when data is available.”
At present, only national data is available for campground operators to view. However, as more campgrounds participate in the survey, data will eventually be broken down to regional levels.
The cost of administering the survey and producing the related analyses will be borne by Ventura, Calif.-based Affinity Group, Inc. (AGI), the parent of Woodall’s Publications Corp., publisher of Woodall’s Campground Management, and TL Enterprises Inc., publisher of RV Business, RVBUSINESS.com.
Park operators wishing to  participate in the survey may visit www.prr.msu.edu/camping/cg_partnership/weekly_registration.asp.