It seems the American Camper has become the most studied species since the gray wolf was introduced to Yellowstone National Park. Everywhere you turn, there’s a study touting the latest and greatest data on what campers love to do (or wish they could do) and what RVers really want out of their recreational time.
The latest entry in the Camper Data Sweepstakes comes from the RV Industry Association, which just released its Campground Industry Market Analysis. The new report is supposedly a compilation offering details on the availability of campsites, as well as the campground amenities that are available at federal, state, municipal and private campgrounds in the U.S.
RVIA Vice President of Membership and Research Bill Baker says the new study is an attempt by the manufacturer’s trade group to work with the rest of the outdoor industry to improve the RVing experience.
“This is the first time a study like this has ever been done and given how popular camping has become overall and the growth of RVing in particular, it’s important to understand the total catalog of campgrounds and campsites in the ecosystem, as well as the amenities, to better plan for the future,” Baker told Woodall’s Campground Magazine in an interview this week.
RVIA touted the report as the most comprehensive study of its kind. “Never before has this amount of data on campgrounds and RV campsites been available in a single report,” it said in its press release.
Well, it’s all available if you’re a dues-paying member of the RV Industry Association. That’s the only way you’ll get access to the full study.
What the RV Industry Association did share was a mix of stuff we already knew, along with some genuine specifics on things we didn’t.
Most RVers really, really want full hookups
Kampgrounds of America’s (KOA) 2021 North American Camping Report had already told us that the availability of full-service RV hookups was one of the top 10 amenities RVers use when selecting where to camp. The KOA study said about 29 percent of RVers were in search of full hookups when choosing a park.
But the new RV Industry Association data found that only 8 percent of the campsites in public parks, and just 51 percent of the sites in privately owned campgrounds offer full-service hookups.
It’s also no surprise to RVers who have attempted to book a campsite in the past two years that the parks are full. The new RVIA study found that during the peak camping season of June, July, and August, 76 percent of all campsites are booked.
Where’s the WiFi?
The new study also found a wide disparity in RVing amenities between private and public campgrounds. The main culprits here are WiFi availability and dump stations, as well as pull-through RV sites.
“Altogether, these findings indicate that increasing campsite amenities should be a priority of the campground industry, as this would improve consumers’ overall campsite experience,” the RV Industry Association said in their data synopsis.
Again, the need for better WiFi and the benefits of pull-through sites aren’t a secret to private park owners. It’s one of the primary reasons campers often choose private parks over their less-well-funded public counterparts.
The real value of the RV Industry Association’s latest attempt at data gathering in the Campground Industry Market Analysis is the bridge it just might build between the camping industry and RV manufacturers. For decades, the two groups have often sung from different songbooks.
The Campground Industry Market Analysis bottom line
Any attempt by the RV manufacturing industry to better understand campers and RVers is a good thing. This latest study—which was supported by KOA, the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), and Cairn Consulting—highlights the disparity that still exists between public campgrounds and privately owned parks.
In a nutshell, privately owned parks do a better job of supporting the needs of RVers by providing better access to hookups and other desired RV amenities than government-run facilities.
The for-profit privately owned camping industry has always been far ahead of federal, state and municipal campgrounds. But maybe, just maybe, more hard data like this will help the RV Industry Association and other outdoor industry advocacy groups garner the attention of lawmakers who control the public park purse strings.