Campgrounds in western North Carolina inject the local economy with revenue, serving tourists and providing natural fit with the many outdoor adventure activities in the region.
But, according to a report in the Citizen Times, Asheville, campgrounds still feel their role in the area economy is underrated by tourism officials and the general public.
“I think there has been a prejudice by the local community,” said Suzanne Mark, a campground consultant for Campfire Lodgings in Asheville. “We have a million-dollar view at the campsite that is just as good as Grove Park.”
The Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau website, exploreasheville.com, lists just three of the multiple campgrounds in the area.
Campfire Lodgings was told it was not allowed to participate in a recent full-page ad spread in AAA Go Magazine subsidized by the bureau.
Marla Tambellini, spokeswoman for the bureau, said campgrounds are only listed on the site and in the print visitors guide if they pay to get in. That’s because the bureau’s revenue comes from a lodging tax that campgrounds don’t pay for tent and recreational vehicle guests, or even cabin guests if the grounds have four cabins or fewer.
But campgrounds don’t have the option of paying extra to participate in bureau-sponsored cooperative advertisements because that is bureau policy. The same goes for vacation rentals and small bed-and-breakfast accommodations. Only accommodations that do pay the lodging tax are allowed, she said, because “they help sell the destination.”
Tambellini said people don’t typically choose a destination based on the accommodations. “If you can go camping anywhere in the U.S., why would you go to Asheville?” she said.
She stressed, however, that “everyone recognizes that campgrounds fill a much-needed niche. We work to promote them in a variety of different ways.”
Area campgrounds offer many amenities that may be unexpected in the great outdoors, such as wireless Internet access, vast pools, luxury cabin rentals and even upscale “yurts,” such as those at Campfire Lodgings, which feature cable TV and a fireplace.
Linda L. Profaizer, president of the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC), said many people are now seeking out campgrounds with unique features and amenities.
She also said campgrounds are an underrated but valuable asset to tourism.
The typical campground injects $38,400 into the local economy weekly during the busy summer season, Profaizer said. During that 12-week peak season,
American campgrounds and RV parks in total contribute $3.3 billion into local economies, according to the association’s research.
“That’s not too shabby at all,” she said. “People tend to think about our parks as still being kind of tacky places and, in reality, many of them are extremely nice.”
Mark, who also used to serve as the education director for the national association, said the industry is struggling to overcome the “trailer trash” image.
She said visitors to campgrounds have money, and they spend it. In fact, they spend more on gas than a hotel visitor.
“It’s not a choice of money,” she said. “This is not necessarily the cheapest way to travel. I’m looking at rigs right now that are over $100,000. It’s more about the lifestyle.”