For the last five years, the fastest-growing segment of the RV industry has been the sale of high-end rigs, a market that has grown 120-fold since 1991, according to the Associated Press.
That year, only 100 RVs costing $200,000 or more were sold. Last year, the number soared past 12,000.
The demand for luxury rigs has given birth to a secondary industry: posh RV parks, outfitted with swimming pools, club houses, golf courses and private lagoons.
“It’s the Ritz Carlton of RV accommodations,” said Ron Petty, president of Outdoor Resorts of America in Bermuda Dunes, Calif. The company operates 12 luxury motorcoach resorts in the United States, including the Pacific Shores Motorcoach Resort in Newport.
Full-time RVers Mike and Marina Wolfgram own three lots at three luxury resorts, the Associated Press reported.
“You get to this age in life and you want a certain level of comfort,” explained Mike Wolfgram, 62, who sold his house in Yuba City, Calif., to finance the new life he shares with his wife.
RVs have been a part of America’s fabric since 1914, but for decades the image of RV parks has been one of a seedy retreat.
“People think ‘trailer trash,’ They don’t realize how much the technology has changed,” said Linda Profaizer, president and chief executive of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds in Falls Church, Va.
The modern motorcoach resort is the brainchild of the founding fathers of today’s luxury rig, who realized their customers needed a destination for their mansions-on-wheels.
“We needed a place to park our toys,” said Bob Lee, founder of Country Coach in Junction City, Ore., and developer of the Desert Shores Motorcoach Resort in Indio, Calif.
When the coaches began to get longer and wider, he said, finding the proper electrical hookups became a problem – as did a space that was wide enough to fit the rig.
Bob Schoellhorn, chairman and CEO of Marathon Coach in Coburg, Ore., is now majority owner of Outdoor Resorts of America Inc., which plans to add eight more resorts to its existing 12 within the next five years. Monaco Coach Corp., the second-largest maker of motorhomes in the United States and also based in Coburg, is building two resorts, including one in Las Vegas.
Of the 8,500 privately owned RV parks in the United States, Profaizer estimates that as many as 150 are now offering a resortlike experience. The most luxurious among them have amenities that rival those of the best hotels and admission rules that are stricter than those of many country clubs.
“We don’t allow trailers. No fifth wheels. No pop-ups. No campers,” said Mike Parks, manager of the Pacific Shores Motorcoach Resort in Newport. “And nothing less than 25 feet. We’ll get out and measure it if we have to. It’s opulence to the nth degree,” he said.
The market for luxury resorts can only grow, said Schoellhorn of Marathon Coach, given the age and tastes of Baby Boomers and the reluctance of many to travel overseas.