Sunshine Key RV Resort & Marina in Florida is an ELS property.

ELS owns Florida’s Sunshine Key RV Resort & Marina

Anyone who’s spent time in the campground and RV park industry has seen the trend of more and more outside companies getting interested in the industry, according to a report by Woodall’s Campground Management.

Whether it’s hotel industry veterans starting a new RV park branding network (most recently Cruise Inn), hotel software companies coming into the industry with reservation and management software (most recently Frontdesk Anywhere) or major companies moving into RV parks from the manufactured-housing-community space, the landscape is changing.

If you take a look at the most recent annual reports from two of those major players — Michigan-based Sun Communities Inc. and Equity LifeStyle Properties Inc. (ELS) of Chicago — you’ll see that they aren’t slowing the pace of acquiring RV parks.

Sun Communities acquired six RV parks between November 2013 and February of this year. By comparison, they added only one manufactured-housing community. They spent $146.8 million on those seven properties, with the RV parks in New York, California, Maryland and New Jersey, according to the company’s year-end announcement. Looking at all of 2013, Sun acquired only one manufactured-housing community to 14 RV parks.

“Our focus on acquisitions in the RV marketplace is based in part on increases in the annual shipments of RV’s, which are expected to increase by 6% in 2014 marking the fifth consecutive annual increase in shipments,” said Gary Shiffman, Sun’s chairman and CEO. “In addition, over 40% of demand for RV parks is from adults over 55 years of age which is a growing segment of our population,” Shiffman added.

ELS expressed similar philosophies in its fiscal-year-end report for 2013 with its Thousand Trails and Encore RV resorts.

The report stated, “According to various industry reports, there are approximately 50,000 manufactured home properties and approximately 8,750 RV properties (excluding government-owned properties) in North America. Most of these properties are not operated by large owner/operators, and of the RV properties approximately 1,300 contain 200 Sites or more. We believe that this relatively high degree of fragmentation provides us, as a national organization with experienced management and substantial financial resources, the opportunity to purchase additional properties as evidenced by the acquisitions during the year ended December 31, 2013.”

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