Campers who stay in retail parking lots do so primarily for convenience and not because they’re trying to save money, a national survey has found.
“It’s not a financial motivation,” explained Peter Yesawich of Orlando, Fla.-based Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown and Russell.
Yesawich said that while 14% of active campers and 18% of RV owners admitted staying overnight at a retail parking lot at least once during the past two years, most did so simply for convenience because they were tired or didn’t need to utilize the amenities that a private campground could provide at that particular time.
This was one of many findings that Yesawich presented Dec. 1 during an address to park operators attending the annual InSites Convention & Expo in Austin, Texas, sponsored Nov. 30-Dec.3 by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
The convention, attracting more than 800 campground owners and 120 vendors, was held at the Austin Convention Center and included educational seminars, entertainment and awards presentations as well as a two-day trade show.
On the heels of an unstable year punctuated by natural disasters in the Gulf Coast, ARVC President and CEO Linda Profaizer said she was upbeat about the convention and the information that it provided to campground and RV park owners. “People were very positive, very enthusiastic about what’s going on in the industry, and very happy with the whole convention,” she said.
Of particular interest to park owners and industry officials, Profaizer said, was the Yesawich study, conducted in September during a period of record high gasoline prices and amid the most intensive hurricane season in U.S. history.
The survey, funded by ARVC along with financial support from numerous other RV and camping industry associations and businesses, involved 1,602 adults over 18 years of age, 800 of whom were RV owners described as active campers, meaning they had camped overnight in an RV park or campground at least once during the past two years.
Based on these figures, Yesawich estimates that roughly 10% of American adults are campers and that 4% own their RV. These consumers, Yesawich said, are among the more affluent people in the country. The majority of them have Internet access and roughly a third of them make their campground reservations online directly with the parks of interest to them, while 20% of camping and RVing enthusiasts book their online reservations through other camping-related websites.
“I would encourage parks to think about how you present your park to the online community,” Yesawich said, adding that it’s important for park operators to consider beefing up their marketing activities to consumers who live close to their parks. That’s because roughly 70% of the people who go camping or RVing do so as a weekend getaway. And, if gas prices continue to climb, even more of them are likely to camp closer to home, he said.
Business, meanwhile, has been strong for campground owners in many parts of the country, despite the obvious problems created by rising fuel costs and bad weather. ARVC Chairman Jason Sheaffer noted that occupancies were up 6% through the end of summer compared to the same period last year, based on input from the ARVC/Woodall’s National Occupancy Survey. Sheaffer also told park operators that 2005 should end up as the second strongest year for RV sales since 1978.