Destination camping, a concept that’s been around for several decades, is gaining traction among consumers which, in turn, has caught the attention from one of the sector’s chief beneficiaries – RV manufacturers.

During the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) Committee Week June 11-13 in Washington, D.C., an ad hoc Destination Camping Committee embarked on a strategic plan to identify the scope of this rapidly growing segment of the market. Manufacturers currently build a variety of products that meet the needs of the destination camper, but the goal of the committee is to examine exactly how big the market currently is, and how big it might become.

The concept of destination camping, which refers in part to “snowbirds” – RVers who keep their RV on one site all year or campers who rent an RV for a season at a single site – dates back at least to the 1980s and became more prominent in the ‘90s, according to John Soard, general manager for Fairmont Park Trailers, a division of Fairmont Homes in Nappanee, Ind.

“The traditional concept of an RV being used on the road all the time is being circumvented by the customer parking their unit all the time,” said Soard, who chairs RVIA’s newly formed Recreational Park Trailer Committee, which also met during Committee Week. “It’s taken the industry this long to recognize that it’s a nice little market segment.”

Determining the breadth of that market is the focus of a survey the ad hoc committee commissioned through Precision Research, an Arizona-based firm that has done previous work for RVIA. Hard data is needed because everyone has an idea how big that market is but no one knows for certain, Soard says.

Many in the industry consider recreational park trailers as the major choice for destination campers. Soard thinks otherwise.

“I am on the higher end of what I think the total number of destination campers is,” he said. “Of all travel trailers out there being built over 30 feet, I think 75% of those are not being towed. I think they’re being delivered and parked in a seasonal site. That distinction makes them destination campers.”

The survey will reach out to 400 RVers and 400 non-RVers. Results are due back by the fall. They’ll also be looking to see how words like “seasonal” and “annual” and “snowbirds” fit with this new destination category.

When that RV, whether it’s a travel trailer, a fifth-wheel or a recreational park trailer, takes on a sense of permanence at a campground or elsewhere, it becomes a vacation home.

“Part of the challenge is to figure out how to keep from becoming painted with the same brush stroke as housing, because they’re not,” he said.

The RVIA isn’t just paying lip service to the destination camping concept. The ad hoc meeting was well attended by RVIA staff, both public relations and legal, as well as representatives of the Pennsylvania RV Camping Association (PRVCA), the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA), Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) and park model builders such as Kropf Industries Inc., DNA Canterbury RV and Cavco Industries Inc., among others.

Says RVIA President Richard Coon, “So the bottom line is we’re trying to determine the market size, the demographics of people who have created this destination camping – what they like, what they don’t like – and determine the best way to promote it.”