Editor’s note: The following message was sent to members of the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds and the Alabama Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds late on Friday (Dec. 4).
Almost all indicators and reports are pointing to a very good winter camping season for our Florida and Alabama RV park properties. Regardless of what is being reported in the national media, or for the rest of the nation, the truth is that the RV park and campground industry in Florida and Alabama is doing great. Businesses are open, they are providing a safe environment for their workers and customers, and the campers are coming.
Reports from many park owners and managers are saying their reservations are on par with last year or up. The Canadian travel and border closures continue to be a real concern, and some parks are seeing cancellations, however, most park operators are saying they’ve been able to fill their sites with new campers who are brand new to camping or campers who are staying closer to home. We have heard many operators saying they have two waiting for every one cancellation. We know that all parks won’t be this fortunate, especially for some of the snowbird parks who are usually filled with Canadian campers, but it’s still a great sign that the winter season will be good for most.
Some RV park operators who are now booked solid for January-March are still a little concerned about cancellations because quite a few of their reservations are from Canadian campers expected to arrive in January. These park operators are understandably fearful they may receive cancellations at the last minute, and then it will be too late to fill their sites. This is especially frustrating when they are having to turn away reservations now.
We’ve been advising park operators to reach out to their Canadian or northern customers who have reserved sites and have them confirm they will still be coming, and to let them cancel now if necessary, but to make sure they understood they would not be allowed to cancel at the very last minute. Many campers assume that they can just cancel at the last minute and say it’s because of COVID (valid or not) and then not have any repercussions and expect full refunds. This is obviously not fair to the park owner and customers need to be made aware of your refund policy. From what we’ve heard, the borders are expected to be closed probably through most of the winter, but no one knows for sure and it will all depend on how the COVID vaccinations are going.
Fortunately, there is enough positive news and data for us in Florida and Alabama to remain very hopeful that all we go well for our industry over the next few months. Many of the reservation companies are confirming this with their reservation tracking systems. For example, Campspot reported to us, that 90% of their customer parks in southern states are showing higher occupancy from Nov. Mar. of 2020/21 vs. 2019/20 as of now, and the Florida specific numbers are even greater.
Here are some other interesting stats collected and released by Campspot based on the parks within their system (stats noted at the beginning of October this year):
- Looking at how many reservations there were as of Aug. 2019 for fall 2019 vs. as of Aug 2020 for fall 2020, we saw 35% more advanced fall reservations in 2020 than 2019. We defined fall as post-labor day through October plus the first couple days of Nov. to include Halloween weekend.
- Average length of stay in lodging is up 28.55% from 2019 to 2020 (as classified by our website, meaning not RV or tent sites).
- Snowbird travel is up: Of all the parks in southern states, 90% will have higher occupancy as of Oct. 29 for Nov 2020 – March 2021 than they did as of this day (Oct. 29) last year for that same range last year. Florida has some parks reporting 100% higher occupancy.
No matter how you look at it, we are extremely fortunate to live in Florida or Alabama and to be working and thriving during these unprecedented times. Though there still may be a couple of bumps in the road during the next couple of months, we are optimistically positive that 2021 will be a banner camping year for our members and for the RV park and campground industry.