Camping, glamping sector builds beyond pandemic popularity

Campgrounds, glamping sites, recreational vehicles and anything else that offered fresh air, physical distance and a decreased chance of cancellation due to Covid-19 regulations saw significant boosts in bookings in 2020.

Internally, companies offering those products believed it would be hard to keep up the rapid growth into 2021, but the sector’s upward trend has continued, and more amenity-rich camping products are coming to market to meet demand. 

“In 2020, as people switched to domestic and drive-to travel, it was great for us,” said RVShare CEO Jon Gray. “We wondered how we would top that growth, and we have. We’ve continued to see business accelerate and have had strong growth this year on the back of what was dynamic growth in 2020.”

A recent survey conducted by Wakefield Research for RVShare found 45% of travelers included RVs in their top three types of accommodations, a 13% increase from 2020. It also found that, when planning a 2022 vacation, half of travelers are considering outdoor activities.

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Companies both firmly rooted in the outdoor travel space and more traditional hotel companies are investing in the expanding market.

This year, AutoCamp opened its first East Coast location: a Cape Cod site with an 8,100-square-foot Clubhouse featuring a lounge with an indoor fireplace, a general store and restrooms with showers. There are now three of the company’s amenity-laden sites where guests stay in custom Airstreams, glamping tents and cabins nationwide, with three more expected to open in the next year. 

Margaritaville launched its own RV and luxury campgrounds in 2019. Now, following the success of the first two Camp Margaritaville RV Resorts in Lake Lanier, Ga., and Pigeon Forge, Tenn., the company plans to introduce between 30 and 50 campgrounds in the next five years, with five locations slated to open in 2022. The resorts accommodate recreation vehicles in addition to offering glamping sites and cabins, and they feature amenities like dog parks, playgrounds, dining outlets and live entertainment. 

As the outdoor travel market continues to expand, the companies are increasingly convinced the growth is durable. 

“We’re expecting another big year in 2022,” Gray said. “During the pandemic people went domestic and drive-to tourism, and what they found is they had a better time than they expected. We saw airfares come back, we saw hotels come back, and we did not see any material slowdown in the outdoor travel business. In fact, we saw it accelerate.” 

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