By Russ and Tiña De Maris
The boys back in Indiana are practically dancing a jig: The RVIA (RV Industry Association) projects manufacturers could roll as many as 515,000 rigs to dealers in 2021. If the dealers sell them, where will your RV stay? We don’t mean, where will you park your rig when it’s not on the road – we mean, where will you stay when you’re on the road?
Conveniences become necessities
In these days of “conveniences” looking more like necessities, having a place to plug the shore-power cord in on a regular basis is becoming a big thing for many RVers. An RVtravel.com poll asked readers how long they could go without having to have shore power service. Only 28% of all respondents said they could do without an electrical hookup indefinitely. That left 72% who said they’d need a hookup sooner or later, many every night, a few saying in a week or two.
Where will your RV stay when you’re out and about? The RVIA says approximately 9 million U.S. households own an RV. Not all of those are on the road, but the average American uses their RV at least two weeks a year. Nine million RVs. Now add on the estimated half-million or more (potentially 515,400) new RVs that could hit the road next year. Comparing the huge 2020 movement of new RVs (423,628) to the projection is more than a 21% “bump” in the potential number of RVers looking for a place to overnight.
We asked readers if they found it more difficult now to get an RV park space without a reservation than it was five years ago. Answer? More than 91% of you said, “YES!” So if it was more difficult then, what about next year, with 20% more rigs competing for spaces? Surely, with such demand for RV park sites, one would expect that developers are jumping at the chance to fill the need. Right?
Will RV parks fill the need?
David Basler, a spokesman for the ARVC, “the” association of RV parks and campgrounds in the U.S., shared a few insights. First off, the question of where will your RV stay in light of the surge of new RVs is a question that concerns his organization. He pointed out that while public lands agencies are struggling to provide new spots, members of his organization – private industry – are indeed expanding. “The private industry is growing,” Basler told us, “not at a comparable rate [to that of new RVs built], but at a rate that we’ll keep up.”
ARVC provided some numbers showing how it figures RV park owners will keep up with the demand. Looking at the numbers gave some initial assurance: In 2019, ARVC members had 1,190,000 RV sites with hookups available. By this year, that number pushed up to 1,225,000 sites – nearly a 3% increase. But what about 2021? Not all the numbers are yet available, but Basler says ARVC anticipates an increase of some 52,300 sites, taking the total to a potential of 1,277,300 hookups.
Let’s see here. 52,300 new hookups – that’s a 0.187 percent increase in sites, compared to a 20% increase in RV production. We’re not sure how ARVC figures those two numbers are congruent with the thought that private RV parks “will keep up” with the potential demand. Basler tells us that RVers will just have to do better about “planning ahead” when it comes to routing and reservations.
Changes hard to choke down
For those of us who “cut our teeth” in the RV lifestyle, these changes aren’t going down easy. The days of figuring out where will your RV stay overnight an hour before “quitting time” are pleasant memories. “Spur of the moment” joins the ranks of mercury-free tuna fish and pay telephones on every corner. These writers predict that if the RV manufacturing industry doesn’t do a much better job of working with groups like the ARVC, they may well find a sudden drop in demand, if RVers find themselves getting frustrated with no place to go.
Here’s a wild thought: Let the RV manufacturing/retailing industry set aside a percentage of their sales and use it to incentivize development of more RV park sites.
[Ed note: Paragraphs regarding number of new sites has been corrected. Apologies to ARVC, they provided the correct information, but numbers were bungled by us. –rd 12/7/20, 11:56mst]