Campgrounds and RV parks could see their business levels decline by 5% to 10% next year as Americans respond to rising gasoline prices and President Bush’s call to conserve fuel, said Jim Rogers, president and CEO of Billings, Mont.-based Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), noting that the dip should be temporary.
“I think business is going to be down next year,” Rogers said. “I think it’s going to be perceived to be unpatriotic to not be gas frugal. I think that it’s going to wear off. But I still think that there’s going to be that sensitivity, a kind of peer pressure on one another, especially if the president continues to share the message that he shared (Sept. 26).”
Rogers spoke to RVBUSINESS.com about the impact of rising gasoline prices and President Bush’s fuel conservation message on the campground sector following his Sept. 27 keynote address to more than 100 private park operators at the California Travel Parks Association’s (CTPA) “Connections 2005” Convention in San Diego.
Rogers said it will be imperative for the RV and campground industries to respond in a positive way to the president’s call for fuel conservation. “I think we have to come out as an industry with a tag line, some type of campaign that says, ‘Enjoy America closer to home.’ We need to step forward and be proactive and say things like ‘Conserve fuel. Take your friends in your RV.’ ”
Rogers also recommended that campground operators step up their marketing efforts to keep people energized about taking trips closer to home. Additionally, he said, campground operators need to develop more activities for guests who may be inclined to extend their stays in campgrounds.
On a positive note, Rogers said that the growing number of Baby Boomers continues to fuel the RV and campground businesses and will eventually adjust to higher fuel prices, much like they have in the past.
“Again, I think it’s a hiccup,” Rogers said of the potential short-term decline in campground visitation. “The Baby Boomers are going to make their purchases and we’re going to rebound.”
The Sept. 27-28 CTPA conference, being held at the Red Lion Hanalei Hotel, features educational seminars by several campground industry leaders and officials along with a trade show featuring 36 vendors.
Presenters include Gary Pace, president and CEO of Orange, Calif.-based Friend Communications Inc.; Bob MacKinnon of Murrieta, Calif.-based MacKinnon Campground Consulting; Lynn Rogers of Port Angeles, Wash.-based AGS Publishing; Tom Gerken of Evergreen USA and International Insurance Services in Lewiston, Maine; Don Linenberger of Utility Supply Group in Issaquah, Wash.; and Bill Garpow, executive director of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA).