Kampgrounds of America, Inc. (KOA) has measured the continued explosive growth of U.S. and Canadian camping, propelling its annual North American Camping Report to an industry staple.
The pandemic accelerated sustained interest in camping during the past two years, welcoming millions of new and returning campers year-over-year. With over 9.1 million first-time campers last year, one-third of first-time campers said that COVID-19 was the impetus to try camping. This growth has resulted in campers booking their campsites much earlier in the season, with about three-fourths (75%) having already booked at least some of their campsites for 2022 by early April. In terms of camping behavior, 46% of campers worked remotely during at least some of their trips, up from 41% in 2020, including 57% of millennials.
Tracking eight years of continued growth and interest in camping, and the pandemic fueling a swell in new campers, the 2022 survey found that camping has become a mainstream, widely adopted leisure travel option. Not only did 40% of leisure trips result in camping, but 80% of all leisure travelers choose camping or glamping for at least some of their trips. This incidence points to the importance of camping in the travel and hospitality industry.
“Our research shows that camping is one of the primary ways households prefer to travel and spend their leisure time because 75% of campers say it reduces stress and contributes to their emotional well-being,” said Whitney Scott, chief marketing officer of Kampgrounds of America. “Camping is driving leisure travel’s recovery and its benefits will fuel future market share.”
Since KOA’s first North American Camping Report was published in 2015, the number of camping households in the U.S. and Canada has increased by 77%.
Although camping grew steadily from 2014 to 2019, the industry witnessed a 31% increase in people camping at least once a year over a five-year period and grew by 36% in just the past two years (from 2019 to 2021). In 2021, 57 million households reported that they went on at least one camping trip last year, an 18% increase compared to 2020 and the most significant year-over-year change since the report’s inception. Among all North Americans polled, nearly half (48%) participate in both camping and another form of leisure travel, while about 1-in-20 households camp exclusively as their only form of leisure travel.
Glamping and RVing also continue to grow in popularity. Nearly half of new campers in 2021 went glamping at least once, and almost 15 million households went RVing at least once to explore the outdoors. While in the past, most RVers rented or borrowed RVs for their vacations, 77% of RVers now own their rig. Similarly, interest in RV purchasing is high among non-RV owners, with 32% saying they want to purchase an RV in 2022.
Additional key findings from the 2022 North American Camping Report include:
The Rise of the Urban Camper
- In 2021, camping saw the rise of the urban resident as one of the most avid camping segments in terms of both trips and number of nights spent camping.
- The urban camper prefers to camp in tents (66%), but if they RV, they are highly likely to They are seeking a variety of new experiences in 2022, from RVing (58%), backcountry camping (54%), taking a road trip (54%), overlanding (51%) and glamping (50%).
- Music festivals continue to be one of the most popular reasons for the urban camper to get outside, with 44% camping for these types of events in 2021.
- Looking ahead to 2022, 44% of this group plan to replace a traditional leisure trip with a camping trip, citing current economic conditions and avoiding crowds as key drivers for their decision-making.
Remote Work Camping is Here to Stay
- As the pandemic has created permanent ripple effects in the way Americans work, this shift is also having an impact on the camping industry. A total of 46% of campers work during at least some of their trips, up from 41% in 2020, including 57% of millennials.
- Close to half of campers rate having Wi-Fi as important (48%), impacting their ability to camp so they can extend their trips and stay connected to work as needed.
The RV Boom
- RVing is at an all-time high, with 11 million RV owners camping last year, and two million new RV renters in 2021.
- There is a marked increase in peer-to-peer RV services, with seven-in-10 non-RVers saying they are likely to rent from a peer-to-peer service, including 79% of millennial respondents.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Outdoors
- New campers continue to be more diverse when compared to campers overall, with 54% of new campers self-identifying as non-white. Currently, about one out of every three camper households includes people who identify as Hispanic, Black, Asian, or other non-white ethnicities.
- A quarter of Black campers plan to embark on their first solo camping trip in 2022.
- The age demographic makeup of campers continues to trend younger, with millennials and Gen-Z making up 53% of all campers. Seven-in-10 new campers are 40 or younger.
The Future of Camping
- In 2021, it is estimated that campers spent about $44 billion in local communities during their trips.
- About seven million leisure traveler households will try camping in 2022.
- It is predicted that overlanding will become a more popular camping vertical. Overlanding is a self-reliant form of travel with off-roading transport vehicles where the primary form of lodging is camping and trips are usually for extended periods. In 2021, 27% of campers took an overlanding trip for the first time, and 46% of all campers want to try overlanding in 2022.
- Glamping continues to grow, with 36% of campers going on a glamping trip for the first time in 2021. In 2022, 50% of campers are seeking a glamping experience.
- Given camping’s increased popularity and early booking trends, it will be beneficial for interested campers to plan earlier than ever before to secure their desired dates and locations. In fact, by April 2022, about three-fourths of campers had already booked at least some of their campsites for 2022.
Celebrating 60 years in 2022, the demand for KOA’s camping inventory continues to increase. In 2021, KOA confirmed 26 new franchise locations. KOA’s future openings include new campgrounds in Virginia, California, Alabama, Nebraska, Oregon, and Alberta as well as a new corporate headquarters in its hometown of Billings, Mont.
To view additional findings from the 2022 North American Camping Report, or view previous versions of the annual report, visit www.NorthAmericanCampingReport.com.
The results of the most recent iteration of the North American Camper Survey are based on a total of n=4,145 surveys completed among a random sample of U.S. (n=2,945) and Canadian (n=1,200) households. Within the U.S. sample of households, results are stratified by Census Region: Northeast (n=736); Midwest (n=732); South (n=740); and West (n=737). Overall, a sample of n=2,945 U.S. households is associated with a margin of error of +/- 1.81%, while a sample of n=1,200 Canadian households is associated with a margin of error of 2.83%. All surveys were completed online via an outbound solicitation sent to a randomly selected cross-section of U.S. and Canadian households. In order to calculate overall incidence, the sample of respondents was statistically balanced to ensure that the results are in line with overall population figures for age, gender, and ethnicity. Some results may not add to 100% due to rounding.
About Kampgrounds of America
Kampgrounds of America, Inc. (KOA) is the world’s largest system of open-to-the-public campgrounds with 525 locations across the U.S. and Canada united under the mission of “connecting people to the outdoors and each other.” The industry leader in outdoor hospitality, KOA’s family of campground brands – KOA Journey, KOA Holiday and KOA Resort – offer sites and amenities designed for every type of camping experience. In addition to unrivaled brand visibility, KOA offers campground owners unparalleled support, marketing, and technology. The company’s proprietary reservation software, K2, delivers campgrounds a completive advantage within the market. Founded in 1962 in Billings, Mont., KOA now serves more than a million camping families each year, who rely on the standards of excellence and unique outdoor adventures for which KOA is known. For more information, visit KOA.com.
About Cairn Consulting Group
Cairn Consulting Group is a market research firm with extensive experience in the hospitality and services industries. For the past several years, Cairn Consulting Group has worked with organizations in both indoor and outdoor hospitality, including the gaming/casino areas, food services/restaurant space, accommodations, travel/tourism, and the products and services that are a part of the hospitality industry. The organization also serves clients in branding/brand positioning efforts, evaluating consumer behavior, public opinion & policy, and product development.