The campground business was up in most parts of the country in 2002, despite wildfires, droughts and a sluggish national economy that has negatively affected other travel sectors, according to the collective leadership of the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC).
But in speeches before representatives of roughly 625 campgrounds who attended ARVC’s Insites 2002 Convention and Expo last month in Memphis, campground and RV industry leaders warned that the sector faces numerous political and economic challenges in the months ahead.
Tighter immigration controls along the Canadian border, increased taxation, zoning issues and more stringent water and sewer service regulations confront campground operators across the country. In Virginia and elsewhere, park owners may also encounter greater competition from state and national parks. On the other hand, ultratight budgets may well limit public park competition over the next few years.
Behind these challenges is the continuing pressure on campground operators nationwide to upgrade their parks to accommodate today’s larger RVs, a need that was highlighted by Coachmen Industries, Inc. Chairman, President and CEO Claire Skinner, who was recently elected to chair the Reston, Va.-based Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
While acknowledging to attendees in her keynote address that it is costly to upgrade campgrounds to accommodate larger RVs, particularly those requiring 50-amp service, Skinner said the benefits of all this investment should pay off in the long run, particularly for those campgrounds that offer additional amenities, such as Internet connections and improved reservation systems.
“Remember today’s consumers, and those Baby Boomers in particular, are known for their appetite for amenities and service,” Skinner said. “But they’re also known for their loyal response when their needs are met.”
ARVC Chairman Randy Packard noted in his comments during the annual membership meeting that the campground sector has enjoyed considerable growth this year, thanks in part to the growth in RV sales. “Last year at this time,” he said, “we were still reeling from the events of 9/11, talking about high gas prices and watching RV sales go south.” This year, he said, gas prices have been stable, interest rates have fallen and RV shipments are projected to increase by more than 14.5%, as more and more security-conscious Americans turn to RVing and camping.
“Consumers are giving camping a try,” Packard added. “Why? Because it offers a chance to be with family and friends in a relatively secure environment and it provides a getaway from the stresses of daily life.”