How can campground owners, as businessmen, prepare for what lies ahead? One of the keys is knowing the customer, and the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (National ARVC) might just have the perfect resource: the 2022 Generational Camping Report.
Data recently released by the country’s campground association can be used by campgrounds to learn more about the people driving the demand.
In partnership with RMS North America and RVshare, ARVC’s research provides key information to the industry such as preferences and opinions on camping, RVing, and glamping as well as campers’ behavior according to generations and demographics.
“I mean, what really stood out to me this year was that new campers are on the rise. So, people who love to camp, they’re still doing it. They’re doing more of it. But […] new people who have never done it before and are getting out there, there’s way more of them,” said RMS North America’s Senior Marketing Manager Adelle Rodriguez.
“So that ratcheting up I think is a good sign across the board,” she added.
With new campers and avid campers forming the roster, it’s important for campground owners to familiarize themselves with the behavior of guests so they can prepare to accommodate them in the coming seasons.
How Campers are Getting to Campgrounds
In every planning stage of a camper’s trip, one important question that needs an answer is “where should I go camping next?”. To find the missing piece, most are using search engines such as Google to discover a campground for their next trip, according to ARVC.
For this specific purpose, it is important for parks to have a website that holds all the information campers will look for such as location, rates, availability, sites, amenities, and a gallery with photos of the property.
Coming second is word of mouth—a recommendation from a trusted friend or colleague.
According to Nielsen’s latest Trust in Advertising Study, 89% of those surveyed said that their most trusted advertising medium is through recommendations from people they know.
In the outdoor hospitality industry, campers seek advice from fellow campers if Google doesn’t answer their questions.
This word-of-mouth approach can also apply to the world wide web. Campers today, regardless of age, consider online review sites when finding a campground to book, per the national campground association. Through online review sites, they can browse through an ocean of feedback from people who have actually stayed at a particular park.
Next is the emergence of social media as a means for travelers to find their next destination.
At the recent Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo 2022 (OHCE2022), ARVC revealed that 46% of campers will find their next adventure on social media.
“This comes as no surprise to you that people are on social media. But we just continue to see that all generations across the board are on social media,” Riley Wilson, the association’s marketing manager, said.
While getting into social media can be “daunting” for some campgrounds that, for years, have been found by campers through traditional means, RMS’ Rodriguez said that going “slow and steady” wins the race.
This means that they can easily choose one platform, such as Facebook, and focus on that. This form of reaching out to campers and being found by them can begin with a single post a week. After that comes optimizing the posts followed by being consistent.
When posting on social media, there are different tools that can be used by campgrounds to level up their social media management and content. Some mentioned by Rodriguez include Buffer and Hootesuite for management and Canva for design.
Campgrounds can also use Instagram to increase exposure to campers. The social networking platform can be used to share photos and videos of the property, and what it has to offer in terms of accommodations, activities, attractions, and more.
What Campers Want
The majority of campers look for a quality experience when it comes to the standard of the park. In ARVC’s survey, most of last year’s campers who intend to camp the same amount or more in 2023, said they are willing to pay more for a campground that meets the highest standards.
Meeting campers’ expectations, ARVC mentioned, creates loyal campers. The standards can range from safety and security to amenities, to utilities like WiFi, and more.
“So what we have with our audience of campers is that if they get there [and] they have a good experience, [then] you’re not gonna lose ’em. It’s a very loyal, loyal group and they’re looking for an awesome experience,” Wilson said during the Generational Camping Report session at OHCE2022.
In terms of camping accommodations, the industry’s growth has also benefitted the RV rental sector.
Jon Gray, the chief executive officer of peer-to-peer RV rental platform RVshare, revealed at the OHCE2022 session that the company has reached a point where it has almost 4 million room nights booked.
One of the factors affecting this can be attributed to the evolving behavior of campers.
Gray said that campers now choose to book an RV on RVshare and have the RV’s owner deliver the rig to the campground.
“[W]e’re seeing people use the business a bit differently now, where someone who just wants to stay at a campground [and] doesn’t necessarily want to drive the RV is having that RV delivered by the owner, and then someone can stay in it,” he said.
He also shared other findings in terms of customers’ expectations, including how more people prefer to stay at a location with WiFi.
Whether it is WiFi in the RV or the campground, Gray implied that campgrounds that do not offer WiFi are at risk of not being considered for a trip.
“[I]f you don’t have wifi, there’s a big chunk of the population that’s just not even gonna consider you,” he said.
The camping population continues to rise, with a younger demographic (54% are millennials) taking up a chunk of the new camper population, per the 2022 KOA North American Camping Report. Because most of the fresh campers are new to the category, Gray said that there is an opportunity for operators to gain loyal customers.
“They’re excited about it, and I think when those people show up at your campground, you have a great opportunity to make them a lifetime customer,” he said. “…you can help them get up to speed on what the [camping and] RV lifestyle style is about,” he added.
The 2022 Generational Camping Report is available for National ARVC members by visiting qrco.de/GCR2022.