Thursday, November 30, 2023


Campground owners are thriving, and there’s little incentive to change things

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.


We can’t keep a good thing to ourselves. Expect many, many more new RVers in 2022


Mike Gast
Mike Gast
Mike Gast was the vice president of Communications for Kampgrounds of America Inc. for 20 years before retiring in 2021. He also enjoyed a long newspaper career, working as a writer and editor at newspapers in North Dakota, South Dakota, Oregon, and Montana. He and his wife, Lori Lyon, now own and operate the Imi Ola Group marketing company, focusing on the outdoor industry.



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Gregg (@guest_142738)
2 years ago

One action that would free up spots at almost no cost to CG owners would be “no show, no call, lose it all” policies; 100% prepay on reservations, no show no call by check out time after the first night forfeits spot with no refund. This has the potential to increase owner’s revenue and “create” 10-50% more available sites for RVers – win-win!

Sandi Tomkinson (@guest_142531)
2 years ago

Heartbreaking. I am alone, qualify for all KINDS of help but no help to apply, have physical problems, have limited means, my own trailer and NOWHERE to go. No idea where I will be in just 6 days.

Sherry Christiansen (@guest_142481)
2 years ago

I always start looking for accomodations along our route as soon as we know where we are going. I do this for two reasons 1) I’m a planner, no fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants for a place to stay and 2) because I’ve heard how difficult it has been for others to get suitable accomodations.

Honestly, we’ve had no problems, but we arent terribly picky either. I start with where we would really like to stay and if needed, expand my search from there. The most difficult time I’ve had was over Labor Day weekend, but was able to secure very nice accomodations in a small family-owned rv park right along our route for a reasonable price.

My advice, start early for reservations.

Last edited 2 years ago by Sherry Christiansen
Firefly (@guest_142468)
2 years ago

What’s the point of this article? “No problem say RV park owners” is the headline, yet there is no quote of an RV park owner saying anything. I’m sorry but this article is uninformative filler. You usually do much better Mike.

Mike Gast (@guest_142505)
2 years ago
Reply to  Firefly

Hello Firefly. This was an opinion essay, not a news story. Hence, the lack of quotes. Apologies if the headline misled.

Mike Sherman (@guest_142465)
2 years ago

Building new campgrounds is getting to be cost prohibitive, government regulations (and expenses) don’t help. Also, I don’t see too many parks making improvements to their facilities, especially the older ones. I spoke with an owner of an older park who wanted to upgrade his electrical system so he could offer 50 amp service instead of 30 amp only. The cost for materials alone was unbelievable.

Steve Baldwin (@guest_142509)
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Sherman

The trick is to share the profits in reinvestment in the property. Every business has to do that now and then and it does pay off. It’s kind of like paying low wages, the owners just want to keep it for themselves.

Jim Prideaux (@guest_142634)
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Sherman

More campgrounds in National and State Parks. Have government absorb costs.

Silas Longshot (@guest_142457)
2 years ago

In case anyone is interested in helping out with the overcrowding situation, here’s what it would cost you to build a campground: About $15,000 to $50,000 per RV pad site.

Bill (@guest_142507)
2 years ago
Reply to  Silas Longshot

A decent list of most of the things involved in building and operating an RV park but pretty short on actual costs and pretty shallow on the details. And, some bad math – “If your monthly overhead is $3500, you’ll have to charge $35 a night to break even.” First, $3500 a month divided by 100 sites is $35 per site per month. Second, $3500 a month for a 100 site RV park is ridiculous, $35,000 a month is more like it. That’s about $11 a night, assuming 100% occupancy, which won’t happen, and assuming zero cost during the off season when the park is closed. In an area with high land cost, that wouldn’t even cover the mortgage.

Gary Hirsch (@guest_142409)
2 years ago

Surprised most don’t provide dry camping overflow areas. Nominal fee would be ok for some.

Crowman (@guest_142420)
2 years ago
Reply to  Gary Hirsch

That would require more land that most of them don’t have.

Tommy Molnar (@guest_142433)
2 years ago
Reply to  Gary Hirsch

Actually, some do. You arrive. There’s no room. You ask if there is any way you can just park ‘somewhere’ for the night. Promise to make no noise. You don’t need any hookups. You’ll be gone in the morning. Offer $10. See what happens. One camphost at a park we frequent when traveling told me if they were full, he wouldn’t even charge if all someone wanted to do was sleep.

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