While 2021 has been a year of frustration for many RVers in search of an elusive open campsite, campground owners are tired … but happy. They’ve seen successive months (or even years) of full campgrounds and growing bottom lines. The bad news for RVers is that there is probably little to motivate owners to change those levels of camper frustration.
Think about it. A successful business model for campgrounds would be increased occupancy at a maximized rental rate. By that measure, both 2020 and 2021 have been rousingly successful years with double-digit growth in most areas. Why would owners mess with a winning formula? An excess of campers is lining up each night, cash in hand, to buy what owners are selling.
The scarcity of campsites certainly isn’t the fault of campgrounds. They aren’t the ones who purchased more than half a million new RVs this year. Park owners work very hard to show campers a good time (at least the ones they can fit in). They invest their lives and their savings into their properties. Most run themselves ragged each summer taking care of their campers, getting up before dawn and waiting for the last campfire embers to die down before they head for bed.
Campground owners are riding the wave of camping’s popularity
Campground owners have been so successful in creating wonderful outdoor experiences over the years that owners now get to ride the wave of camping’s popularity. Booking calendars have been stretched out a year or more and fill up overnight. They’ve created massive waiting lists for sites at their parks. This is – at least for now – camping as we know it.
Do RVers like the new norm? Of course not. But there is likely nothing that would motivate owners or reservation systems gurus to change anything quickly. Everything they have for sale is being sold for top dollar.
Happy campers? The parks are full of ’em. It’s the ones who couldn’t get in who are unhappy. It’s no different than sold-out concerts or motels with “no vacancy” signs. There’s always someone who missed the boat and is on the outside looking in.
Smart campground operators will see the opportunity and invest some of their bounty in building more sites and more campgrounds where and when they can. Free markets always adjust inventory over time to meet demand. Eventually, that might ease some of the pressure.
But don’t expect to just walk up and claim your favorite site anytime soon. Those days have gone the way of a buck-a-gallon gas.