There are a lot of surveys, research papers and armchair experts when it comes to trying to figure out exactly what’s happening in the RV travel industry.
Some of them have been around for a long time. Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) has been doing its North American Camping Report every year since 2014. (Full disclosure: I formerly co-authored that one.) The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) also chimes in with their research, and the RV Industry Association (RVIA) has been pouring a lot of money of late into surveys and studies to find out what makes RVers tick.
Now, there’s a new player in the RVer research game, and they are bringing a fresh set of eyes and some fascinating findings.
Outdoorsy, one of the leaders in the peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace, just released its End of Year & 2022 Travel Trends Report. They identified 13 travel trends they say we can expect to see next year.
The advent of “Revenge Travel”
“What we’re hearing from travelers, and what was further confirmed by our internal data, is something we’ve known all along,” said Outdoorsy’s co-founder and CEO Jeff Cavins. “The pull back of leisure travel in 2020 and 2021 has created a slingshot effect, a revenge travel effect if you will, that we’ll see spring to life in 2022. If anything has changed in the psychology of leisure travel since the start of the pandemic, it’s a traveler’s optimistic prioritization of factors like cleanliness, safety, and convenience — preferences that will continue to create first-time RVers and sustain demand for modes of self-contained travel.”
Why should you consider what Outdoorsy has to say? Well, they certainly seem to have learned a lot about RVing in a short period. The company was founded just six years ago, and it has already booked 4.7 billion days (with a b) of travel. They have offices in 11 countries and 4,800 cities. In 2021 alone, Outdoorsy has launched its own insurance platform, Roamly; acquired $120 million in additional investor funding; and started its own RV purchase loan program.
It’s good to keep in mind that Outdoorsy’s research focuses largely on RV renters, but consider that renting has become one of the major gateways for folks to enter the RVing lifestyle. The “try before you buy” crowd has never been larger, and we’d all do well to listen to what this huge group of new RVers are saying.
Here are the 13 key takeaways from Outdoorsy’s latest research:
Travelers are driving south for the season. Thanksgiving topped Christmas and New Year’s for the holiday weekend with the most RV rental bookings this season. Top destinations for holiday travel include, respectively: Los Angeles, San Diego, Dallas, Phoenix, Houston, Austin, San Francisco, Miami, and Las Vegas.
Family get-togethers are OK again. No need to coach Uncle Larry on how to find the unmute button on Zoom. 70% of respondents said their travel plans for the holidays would be back to normal this year.
Who needs a house up on a hill when you can have one on four wheels? Trailers, Class C RVs and campervans were the most popular rentals, respectively, on Outdoorsy for the past 3 years.
Self-contained travel is here to stay. 91% of survey respondents say they are planning to take a road trip in 2022, with 83% of travelers adding they would be either somewhat likely or very likely to vacation via RV or campervan if there were COVID surges in 2022.
Cleanliness is key. When asked what features matter most when renting an RV, 80% of survey respondents cited cleanliness as the deciding factor, with amenities like a full kitchen (57%), full bathroom (57%), and an indoor shower (43%) also ranking high.
Cancellations are, well, canceled. Only 43% of respondents said they chose to delay or suspend summer vacation plans they had this year.
Let the good times roll. An overwhelming 68% of respondents feel that their families will be more in need of a road trip vacation in 2022 than in previous years. Approximately 63% of respondents said they had decided to drive instead of fly to their final destinations since the start of the pandemic, with 52% of respondents who took to the road adding they drove more than 500 miles to reach their destination.
Keep your loved ones close and your work … closer? Time off work (40%) was one of the top reasons travelers reported why they don’t take more road trips, but 62% of respondents say they stay either partially connected or fully connected to their jobs while on a trip. When not checking their inboxes, travelers said they are most likely to hit the road with their significant other (82%), kids (49%), and pets (39%), with only 7% of travelers reporting a desire to travel solo.
First-time campers remain the rule, not the exception. In 2021, approximately 67% of Outdoorsy web traffic stemmed from first-time RVers. Millennials account for 37% of those bookings, while Gen Xers account for 34% and Boomers account for 17%.
Times are a-changin’, but prices remain the same. A positive contradiction, indeed. Outdoorsy reporting estimates the average price per night for an RV rental in 2021 at $153, compared to $151 a night in 2020 and $139 a night in 2019.
“Try before you buy” is more than just a catch phrase. 44% of respondents said their Outdoorsy road trip experience inspired them to buy an RV or campervan of their own.
Most likely to deliver. Approximately 53% of Outdoorsy renters want delivery and are searching for RVs that can be delivered. Fortunately for them, 60% of Outdoorsy owners offer delivery. So those first-time RVers who aren’t ready to get behind the wheel can show up to their campsite without lifting a finger.
RV owners listing can potentially earn more than most major league baseball players. Grand Rapids-based RV owner Garr Russell is living proof. Russell started his rental business on Outdoorsy with seven trailers and has since expanded his fleet to more than 125 RVs, resulting in more than $6M in rental income. That’s more than the $4.17M annual salary for the average Major League Baseball player.
So, there you are. Outdoorsy’s take on next year has some pretty scary predictions. We’ll see if the campground industry is able to absorb all of the expected bursts in traffic. The good news, I guess, is that where there is business, investment quickly follows. Maybe we’re in line for a huge campground construction boom?