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National shipments of recreational park trailers were up 30% in 2004 compared to the previous year, setting an all-time industry record, according to the Newnan, Ga.-based Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA).
“These are the highest shipment figures we’ve seen in the 25-year history of the recreational park trailer industry,” said Olin Wenrick, who serves as the elected president of RPTIA in addition to being president and CEO of Elkhart, Ind.-based Trophy Homes Inc. “Our industry sees no letup in demand from our consumer or campground customers.”
RPTIA reported 9,186 park trailer shipments during calendar 2004, up significantly from the 7,074 shipments reported during the same period in 2003. Previously, RPTIA reported 7,363 shipments in 2002; 7,388 in 2001; 8,343 in 2000; and 8,161 in 1999.
Wenrick said the high volume of recreational park trailer or “park model” shipments reflects rising real estate prices, which are prompting record numbers of consumers to look for more affordable options for vacation dwellings.
In addition, some of the larger operators in the campground sector are purchasing park models in record numbers, primarily to accommodate travelers who do not have RVs but want to enjoy the recreational lifestyle, Wenrick said.
Thousand Trails purchased more than 50 park models in 2004, compared to “about five” the previous year, said Brad Nelson, vice president of operations for Frisco, Texas-based Thousand Trails Inc., which operates 59 campgrounds in 16 states and British Columbia. Nelson added that the company plans to purchase even more units this year as it gradually replaces its travel trailer rentals with park model units.
Dean Crawford, senior vice president of Milford, Ohio-based Leisure Systems Inc., which franchises campgrounds using the Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp Resort brand, also sees rising demand for park models, partly because the wheeled units are classified as recreational vehicles and can often be set up in campgrounds without building permits.
“They’re definitely in demand with campers,” said Mike Gast, director of communications for Billings, Mont.-based Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), which has about 60 park models among its more than 470 locations across North America. “I think you’ll see a nice steady growth in (the park model) business for some time.”