The South Bend Tribune reported last week that 44 percent of the 1.2 million households in North America that started camping last year were millennials ages 19 to 35, according to the 2016 North American Camping Report, an annual independent study sponsored by Kampgrounds of America.
And of that pool of new campers, the study found 18 percent were African-American, 11 percent Hispanic and 10 percent Asian. Millennials of those races outnumbered all other generations in each group.
The RV industry should keep a close eye on this growing pool of young and diverse campers, Toby O’Rourke, chief of franchise operations for Kampgrounds of America (KOA) told the Tribune. Compared with older generations, she said, millennials place more emphasis on defect-free RVs that feature the latest wireless technology.
“Traditionally, camping has predominantly been done by older white people. But this research is showing that it’s shifting into millennials and a more diverse camper base,” she said.
At the South Bend/Elkhart KOA Campground in Granger, Ind., co-owner Patricia Schenk said she’s noticed a sharp increase in young, diverse campers during the past five years. “The older generation of campers is white, but with millennials there is more diversity,” she said. “Hispanics and African-Americans are coming out to camp.”
Schenk added that millennials are mainly using tents at the campground, and not many have RVs. She attributed the trend to affordability.
“Tent camping has come back heavily, and it’s cheap. But we are seeing more lightweight and smaller trailers,” she said.
Doug Gaeddert, general manager of Elkhart-based Forest River Inc., said Baby Boomers are expected to continue driving the industry’s success for the next decade, but Gen-Xers and millennials will continue playing a more important role. The average age of RV buyers has dropped during the past decade, a trend that is expected to continue.