The events of Sept. 11, 2001, may have changed travel patterns for the long-term, which could be good news for the RV industry.
Over the past 13 months, the RV industry, along with the cruise ship business, were among the travel industry’s few bright spots, according to Suzanne Cook, senior vice president of research for the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA).
The RV rental market, in particular, “experienced a surge in demand in 2002,” Cook reported during the TIA’s Marketing Forum in Hollywood, Fla. “Rentals skyrocketed by 30% during the last quarter of 2001 and have remained at that level throughout this year.”
Although Cook noted domestic travel volume is slowly increasing, she does not believe total domestic and international travel spending will return to year 2000 levels until sometime in 2004.
“We can expect a long, slow road to recovery for the travel and tourism industry, and even when it does come, this does not mean we will necessarily return to the way things were before Sept. 11,” Cook said. “Travel demands, patterns and expectations may have been changed for the long term.
“And despite continued slow growth in the leisure travel market, this recovery is fragile and could be choked off by any number of new developments.”
Cook’s report provides some factual basis for the belief within the RV industry that the RV sector has benefitted from Americans shifting away from international travel, preferring instead to vacation domestically.
“Leisure travel is up 3% in 2001 and up 2% in the first half of 2002,” she reported. “Americans are getting back to basics and are changing travel patterns. There’s a heightened preference for domestic travel and trips closer to home. In-region trips are up 8% in the first half of 2002.”
In the past, many RV rental companies in North America depended upon customers from overseas, but overseas arrivals to the U.S. still are depressed, down 17% in the second quarter of this year, when compared with the April-through-June portion of 2001, Cook said.
Consequently, RV rental firms in the U.S. now depend primarily upon domestic business.