Heading into the Memorial Day weekend, the nation’s news media didn’t seem overly negative nor unduly positive regarding prospects for rising gas prices affecting Americans’ travel plans for the weekend or the 2006 summer camping season.
Judging by the number of stories monitored by RV BUSINESS.com, however, it was clear that the topic was a popular in late May.
A few examples:
Camping: Big on fun, low on cost, stated Michigan’s Battle Creek Enquirer in pointing out that the Wolverine State’s state parks were “packed” for the traditional Memorial Day weekend summer kickoff. “The popularity of camping in Michigan is on display this weekend, as state park campgrounds from here to the Straits of Mackinac are packed with back-to-nature types,” read the Enquirer.
The newspaper then proceeded to positively compare the cost of a two-night stay in a Traverse City Hampton Inn with that of a camping trip to Fort Custer Recreation Area.
Camping crunch read the headline in The Citizen of Auburn, N.Y., which chatted with defiantly dedicated camper Tom Dziekan, who isn’t about to let $3-a-gallon-plus gas get in the way of camping and fishing trips in his Suburban and small trailer. “I’m still not going to limit where I go,” said the Phelps, N.Y., resident while perusing the aisles at a Bass Pro Shop. “It’s what I do.  I’m not going to let (high gas prices) take me away from what I do.”
However, the story points out that local campground owners would like more vacationers to take on Dziekan’s committed attitude, although many are resigned to the fact that volatile gas prices could affect their reservation numbers – or at least the types of reservations they receive. “I don’t think it’s going to be as good as it was last year, I really don’t,” said Beth Larson, office manager of the Hejamada Campground and RV Park in Montezuma. In fact, Larsen said, things have been slow for group reservations, noting that she now has three or four booked for the summer whereas the usual number by now is closer to six to eight.
On the other hand, Gil Paddock, a regional director for the Campground Owners of New York (CONY), believes its too early to forecast much of anything other than the fact that the numbers of seasonal campers are clearly on the rise. “I think it’s going to be a trend,” said Paddock, who at his own campgrounds has seen a seasonal occupancy increase of almost 15%. “They may travel a little bit, but they’re not going to this campground for a couple days, and that campground for a couple.”
Fuel costs have locals retooling vacation plans. So declares The Herald of Rock Hill, S.C. The Herald quotes a spokesmen for the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA), who strikes a familiar chord in stating that fuel prices as they now stand will have a greater effect on how – not whether – Americans travel. “I don’t expect people to cancel a trip,” says TIA’s Kathy Keefe, “but I expect them to modify how they travel.”
Although RV traffic had been brisk from January through April, which typically represents retirees on their way home from Florida, it’s generally down about 15% this month,” said John Trigg, owner of the Fort Mill/Charlotte KOA. “That indicates that families aren’t coming in as much,” said Trigg, who has owned the campground for 20 years. “I know what gas prices do to the RV industry – it tears it up.”
Trigg said his park was booked solid for the weekend – thanks to the Coca-Cola 600 Nextel Cup race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway – but he wasn’t sure what June and July will bring.