The RV industry has experienced a boom in demand, with a new demographic of consumers leading the market to record numbers in the past couple of years.
The newest travel intentions study by the RV Industry Association (RVIA) showed that, out of 15.3 million Americans planning to go RVing between Thanksgiving and the New Year, 29% of Millennials and 20% of Gen Zers are planning to stay in an RV by borrowing, renting or owning one this holiday season, compared to the 15% of Gen Xers and 3% of Baby Boomers.
“We’ve seen over the past few years that the age of [RVers] has gotten younger and more diverse,” said RVIA Spokesperson Monika Geraci during an interview with Modern Campground.
“We looked at people who bought RVs for the first time in 2020, and that median age had dropped down to 41. Then, we did this again in 2021 and looked at the median age of first-time buyers. So these are new to the RVing world, and in 2021, the median age for a first-time buyer was 33.”
The study showed that the main reasons Millennials and Gen Zers opt for RVs as a form of travel are the outdoor adventure and time flexibility to spend with family and friends. Other reasons include wanting more control over their environment, taking everything they want from home, enjoying the journey, and using the RV as a guest house.
The RV has also become an affordable travel option since it will cost 50% less than comparable hotel and plane ride trips and 30% less than hotel and car ride trips, according to a press release by the RVIA.
Changes in the industry’s future
Since younger generations opt to go RVing this holiday season, it may benefit many campgrounds, particularly in the Sun Belt region of the country, where parks remain open all year round.
Geraci said that a feature that 78% of leisure travelers are searching for is cold weather travel equipment, like more insulation, heating systems, and higher-quality windows. Over the last couple of years, many have been camping all year round and not just during the traditional summer camping season.
She said Millennials and Gen Zers want something different, like access to WiFi and, as mentioned, cold weather travel equipment.
During the RV Open House in Elkhart last September, they also looked over new features like solar-focused equipment and bigger tires for off-road traveling and boondocking.
“[W]hat we’ve seen from this younger generation is the desire to do more boondocking and Overlanding. And so the manufacturers are building more RVs that have those capabilities,” Geraci said. “And for some people, schooling [on] the road during the pandemic, we saw that really increased significantly, particularly when schools were closed, people just took their kids on the road.”
She said schooling on the road had not grown as much, but working on the road has continued to grow.
“[T]here are a lot of people, particularly in this Gen Z and Millennial age group, who are working and able to have that flexibility to get out on the road and take an extra long weekend because you can take those Zoom meetings from your RV and from the campground. And so we’re seeing manufacturers put more of that office space into RVs,” she said.
Keeping the demand up
Geraci said the data showed that people who use their RVs are more likely to stay in the RV lifestyle. Campgrounds that remain accessible and have features enticing young RVers, like WiFi, a pool, and other resort-like amenities, can keep their interests.
She said members of the younger generation want campgrounds to have more amenities, be more available, and have a reservation system.
“[T]his younger generation is used to having the phone and just be able to book their campsite or book anything… So having the ability to look online to find a campground and then be able to book that campground right there, know what you’re booking, have an email confirmation, be able to manage that—those are the expectations of the younger generation,” Geraci said.
Features and amenities that provide ease of use are essential to keep the younger generation interested. Geraci added that another good way to attract more young campers is to have activities like hiking, biking, fishing, boating, hunting, and more since RVs are considered “the gateway to the great outdoors.”
She said RVs are used as a base camp for outdoor recreation. The outdoor lifestyle that RVs provide allows people to rediscover the great outdoors and ignite their love for road trips, changing their attitudes and beliefs and turning the outdoors into a priority.
“RV being that gateway to the outdoors, is a great way for people to go do all the other outdoor recreation that they want. So we just need to make sure that it is as easy as possible for people to use those RVs that they purchased and tell their friends about that to keep having more people enter into the lifestyle,” Geraci said.