By Chuck Woodbury
You see the cover of the magazine? That’s Woodall’s Campground Management, the largest publication covering the RV park industry.
Notice the headline toward the bottom: “Campgrounds See Growth with ‘Unique Accommodations’ Aimed at non-RVers.”
The article runs five pages. It begins:
Savvy campground owners understand that those looking to enjoy the great outdoors aren’t necessarily looking to rough it. Although RVs have made it possible for many families to enjoy a camping getaway with nearly all the amenities of home, not everyone wants to — or can afford — that kind of camping lodging options.
The article’s headline reads: “Unique Accommodations, Interest in ‘Glamping’ Show There’s More to a Campground than RVs.”
Well, here’s what I think: I think it’s great that an RV park can do things to improve its profit. Most, after all, are small businesses operated by individuals or families. They have every right to do what they can to bring in more business and increase their income.
BUT I FIND IT A SHAME that in today’s world, where campsites for you and me and other RVers are in huge demand, that parks are often removing RV spaces in favor of more profitable options. The owner of one park noted that he can charge between $120 and $200 a night for a rental covered wagon. Josh Bell, the owner of a KOA in St. Louis, says he can get $199 in prime season by renting a Burlington Northern caboose he turned into lodging. They can’t charge you and me nearly as much because we bring our lodging with us.
I remember the last big financial crisis back in 2008. It was a disaster for the RV industry as sales of new RVs plummeted. Gas prices were sky high, so campgrounds took a huge hit too as RVers stayed closer to home or didn’t travel at all. It seems to me that was when more and more “cabins” began appearing, most at KOAs. They were rustic, one room affairs. Bring your own sleeping bag, and hike with flashlight in hand to the restrooms at 2 a.m. when nature called.
Now, those cabins are full-blown luxury “lodges” with big screen TVs, A/C, king-size beds and bathrooms worthy of a fine hotel. And now there are luxury yurts, cabooses, tee-pees, park models. . .
Meanwhile, RV sites are gradually disappearing.
The economy improved, of course, and so here we are today in 2018 with a half million new RVs on the road since last year at this time and no new campsites.
Good for the RV park owners for finding new ways to earn more money. But too bad for you and me, as we’re increasingly getting delegated to a Walmart parking lot because there ain’t no room for us at the RV park, where all those RV-less campers are hogging our spots in tee-pees, luxury lodges, cabooses, glamping tents and who knows what else.