Editor’s Note: The following column by Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) President Phil Ingrassia, appearing in the July issue of RV Executive Today, examines the RV park and campground industries’ efforts to increase the number of available camping sites.
For several years, the RV industry has been very concerned about the lack of new RV park and campground private and public camping sites. But there is mounting evidence that the tide may be shifting within both the private and public sectors. As Ben Quiggle, editor of Woodall’s Campground Management magazine, pointed out last month, there’s been a spike in new RV park and campground development in recent years.
My own inbox is full of news releases touting private RV parks and campground openings from Vermont to Missouri to Oregon, and just about everywhere in between. I asked David Basler, the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) vice president for membership and marketing, if this was just anecdotal evidence of additional campsite inventory or a real trend for the industry.
Basler told me the RV park and campground sector is experiencing the most expansion and ground-up growth it’s seen in two decades. “We know of at least 20 new corporately-owned parks being built in seven states across the country from California to North Carolina,” he said. “These parks average more than 500 sites each, equating to more than 10,000 new sites entering the available market in the next 12 to 18 months.”
In addition, Basler said hundreds of ARVC-member privately-owned RV parks and campgrounds are purchasing new land or taking advantage of land they already own to expand their businesses, adding thousands more sites. “With the nature of the current economy, we expect to see this trend of significant growth to continue in the coming year,” he said.
On the public sector side, RV overnight stays at National Park Service (NPS) campgrounds have declined from 4.5 million in the 1980s to 2.5 million in 2018, which is extremely disturbing considering the growth in RV sales in recent years.
During RVs Move America Week in Washington last month, RVIA, RVDA, ARVC, and other allies urged members of Congress to support increased federal investment in campground modernization and expansion on public lands. The federal land agencies need to encourage federal land agencies to use volunteers, partnerships, and concessioners more frequently to reverse the decline of RV camping nights.
Through the Restore Our Parks and the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Acts (S. 500/H.R. 1225), Congress and the agencies can implement innovative solutions to address the deferred maintenance backlog on federal lands, which in turn will expand and improve federal campgrounds.
It’s important to note that this isn’t just asking for a handout from taxpayers. Federal campgrounds are sound investments that generate essential revenue for federal land agencies.
Private and public RV parks and campgrounds are essential for the health of the RV industry, and in a time of unprecedented demand, it’s encouraging to see progress being made on both fronts.