Making Travel Easier...
For Family and Special Needs Travelers...
As Appearing in Insider Travel Report.com 4/21
Social distancing and changes in consumer travel habits have benefited one industry significantly—one that has not up to now been widely embraced by travel advisors. I’m talking here about RV travel and camping. This segment has been embraced by both family travelers and the special-needs travel community. So, will 2021 be a tipping point?
Perhaps it should be. According to Statista, in 2017 41.8 million people participated in car, backyard or RV camping in the United States. CampgroundViews.com estimates that 20 percent of campground stays were with rented RVs.
Maddie Bourgerie, director of communications & PR for RVshare.com, says her company, the first and largest peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace (think Airbnb of RV rentals) in September 2020 reached the milestone of two million days booked since the company’s inception in 2013. That doesn’t even include the revenue generated by its competitors, Outdoorsy and Cruise America. Considering the average rental runs $150 per day or $1,000 per week according to Bourgerie, similar to the cost of a hotel stay, that’s an estimated $42.8 million annually for her company alone. She says that while her company doesn’t currently pay commissions on such rentals, “it is something on our roadmap.”
Those numbers are worth noting. Travel advisors don’t thumb their noses at booking hotel stays, so why RVs? And the niche is booming. In a survey of 2,000 campgrounds and RV parks performed by CampgroundViews.com, nearly two-thirds of respondents stated that their advanced bookings are up 50 percent over average for the 2021 camping season. Twenty-four percent of respondents are seeing advanced bookings up over 80 percent for the same period.
“The outdoors and camping provide a safer alternative to other forms of travel and vacations,” says Mark Koep, founder and CEO of CampgroundViews.com. “We expect 2021 to be the year of camping with record numbers of Americans camping in tents, RVs and glamping accommodations.”
RV park and campground owners expect a surge in new campers in their parks and are already adapting to provide for this audience. “We are sold out every weekend through the middle of July,” says Marcia Neese, owner of Riverwalk RV Park in Jonesville, N.C. “Our guests are excited and happy to have a place to bring their RV and enjoy their family and friends. We have set up remote check-in and implemented a seamless booking system to allow our guests to interact as much or as little as they feel comfortable doing.”
Companies like CampgroundViews.com are bringing a new generation of technology to help campers enjoy their trips. “The timing is perfect as we release campground virtual tours and allow campers to see the roads and sites while being able to click and book specific campsites,” says Koep. “The camping industry is at a critical point in its history with so many now discovering and enjoying the benefits of the great outdoors.”
The market is clearly there. John Morris, founder of Wheelchairtraveler.org, has promoted camping even more since the pandemic since “certain groups of disabled people have a higher risk for serious complications due to the coronavirus, a reality that has further restricted the freedoms of many members of the community,” he says. “For those of us who need assistance during travel, it is more difficult to maintain a safe distance from other people. That alone has led many disabled people to write-off leisure travel for the foreseeable future.” His answer? “I have recommended that disabled travelers visit destinations where social distancing is readily achievable, and I have found that many of my blog's readers are taking road trips to national parks and avoiding the big cities.”
Morris’ website even features a guide to recreational vehicles and he acknowledges that while he knows of no wheelchair-accessible RVs for lease, travelers can rent a wheelchair van or take their own vehicles to parks and other destinations around the country.
RV vacations also are an excellent option for families with children on the autism spectrum. You can more easily provide the comforts of home while you are on the road in an RV than you can in a hotel. “It gives you a lot more control over the sensory stimuli and your schedule,” says Jennifer Hardy of Cruise Planners in Kent, Wash. You can also explore areas that are a little more remote, giving your child the freedom to move and explore more comfortably.”
Part Two of this column will focus on where travel advisors can find the commissionable opportunities in ‘RVs and camping.
.My name is Dawn M. Barclay. My parents were owners of Barclay Travel Ltd. and later, Barclay International Group, and I basically grew up in the travel industry. Along with stints working with both companies and a few other travel-related firms, I've served as a senior editor/reporter at Travel Agent Magazine, a contributing editor at Travel Life, the meetings/incentive editor at Travel Market Report and now, the Contributing Editor for Family Travel and Special Needs Travel at Insider Travel Report. My articles have also appeared in the pages of Jax Fax, GoNomad, and Successful Meetings Magazine. I also write psychological thrillers and romance as D.M. Barr.