In a recent survey conducted by The Dyrt, camping information and booking app, a surprising trend has emerged: Veterans and active military personnel are significantly more likely to be campers and campground owners.
This finding, derived from a survey of 4,000 campers, indicates that 14.8% of the camping community comprises veterans or active military members, a figure that notably doubles the total percentage of veterans and active duty military in the U.S. population, which stands at 6.4% and less than 1%, respectively.
The survey, part of The Dyrt’s annual Camping Report due for release in early 2024, sheds light on the camping habits and preferences of this unique demographic.
Kevin Long, CEO of The Dyrt, expressed his surprise at the findings, noting the significant presence of veterans in the camping community. “This was the first year that we asked the question. I knew that veterans camped, but I wasn’t expecting to see so many,” Long said. He emphasized the importance of this statistic, especially in time for Veterans Day.
In a parallel survey focusing on property owners in the camping industry across all 50 states, 13.4% of respondents indicated that they had served or are currently serving in the military. This data underscores the strong representation of veterans not just in camping but also in the ownership and operation of camping properties.
The Dyrt’s feature on veteran camping property owners further highlights how military experience translates into successful campground management.
For instance, James Cook, an Air Force veteran who co-runs Gasconade Hills Resort in Missouri with his wife, Sheila Cook, exemplifies this. Sheila attributes James’s diverse skill set, including critical thinking and the ability to manage various tasks, to his military background. “He’s the IT guy, the plumber, the electrician, the landscaper, the float operator… that’s just to name a few,” she says.
Moreover, the survey found that veterans and active military members are not just more likely to camp but are also more avid campers. In 2023, they camped 22.8% more nights than the survey average. This trend is significant for campground and outdoor hospitality operators, as it points to a dedicated and frequent user base.
Additionally, those with a military history showed a preference for RVs as their primary type of camping, 33.1% more than the survey average. This preference for RVs can guide campground operators in tailoring their services and amenities to better cater to this segment of the market.
Landon Dooley, an Army veteran and owner of the Enchanted Circle Campground in New Mexico, shared his perspective on the therapeutic potential of camping for veterans. He believes that camping can offer a healing environment, especially when done in smaller, more intimate groups. “If you take a bunch of veterans out and get into a little more intimate of an environment, I feel like a lot more healing can be done,” Dooley says.
For campground and outdoor hospitality operators, these insights offer valuable guidance on how to better serve this significant portion of their clientele. Understanding the unique needs and preferences of veteran campers can lead to more tailored experiences, potentially increasing loyalty and repeat visits.
The survey’s findings also suggest an opportunity for the industry to engage with veterans as potential campground owners and operators. Their skills and experiences, as demonstrated by veterans like James Cook, can be invaluable in the successful management of camping properties.
The survey by The Dyrt not only highlights the strong presence of veterans in the camping community but also offers actionable insights for campground and outdoor hospitality operators. By recognizing and catering to the specific needs of veteran campers and leveraging their potential as campground owners, the industry can foster a more inclusive and supportive environment for this important demographic.