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Eleven percent of U.S. households camped overnight in campgrounds during the past year, though only 6% spent the night in private parks, a national study commissioned by Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) has found.
The remaining 5% spent the night in public parks.
“We were surprised, but it’s a very real number,” Ken Stellmacher, KOA’s vice president of marketing, said of the 6% figure. “We know we’re dealing with a smaller market than we believed it to be. However, it’s still a very substantial market.”
The incidence of commercial camping is similar in Canada, with 10% of Canadian households going overnight camping in the past year, 6% in commercial campgrounds and 4% in public parks.
The study, conducted from April 22 to June 5 by Precision Research Inc., involved nearly 12,000 households, including 8,000 in the U.S. and 3,500 in Canada.
Although Billings, Mont.-based KOA has no intention of challenging other industry studies, it is interested in quantifying the size of the private campground business and in identifying trends within that market segment, Stellmacher said.
He maintained that can’t be easily done with general studies that merely outline trends in RV ownership.
For example, the University of Michigan study, which has performed extensive reviews on the RV industry for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), estimates that nearly one in 12 U.S. vehicle-owning households owns an RV and that roughly 7.2 million RVs are on the road today.
But those figures don’t pinpoint where people camp. Nor do they account for camping enthusiasts who use other accommodations such as tents and cabins.
“A lot of times when we talked about the size of the market, we could only make assumptions,” Stellmacher said.
The KOA study, however, fills in some of the blanks. Among KOA’s key findings:
* North American campers who stay in commercial campgrounds produce 107 million nights annually. Most of these nights are generated by U.S. campers (95 million nights), while Canadian residents account for about 12 million commercial campground nights.
* Two thirds (65%) of commercial campground campers in the U.S. are RVers. In Canada, 57% of its campers utilize RVs.
* Seven in 10 U.S. commercial campground patrons are summer campers, either on vacation trips or weekends.
* One in four (23%) of U.S. campers spends the winter camping in Sunbelt locations.
* More than one in four campers said they have camped in the past 12 months as part of a family or group get-together.
* The average U.S. and Canadian commercial campground guest spends almost 16 nights in private campgrounds annually.
* More than half of commercial campground visitors in all segments camped with children under 18 in the past 12 months.
* About one in three commercial campground campers usually brings a pet, with RVers being slightly more likely than tenters to take pets on their camping trips.
* 93% of campers who take pets with them have dogs, while 8% have cats and 1% have birds.
* KOA has a very strong brand awareness among U.S. campers.
Stellmacher said KOA plans to perform a similar study in two years to track emerging trends in the campground industry.
“We have a benchmark now,” he said, “We’ll be able to ascertain whether we see growth or decline in the commercial camping marketplace.”