Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), had just enough numbers at her fingertips this week to feel buoyed by the prospects for her industry in 2009.
Bookings processed on the gocampingamerica.com website through Jan. 24 were 41% ahead of the 2008 pace, and future revenues for campgrounds going forward from April are up 5% over the same time last year. The site is maintained by Friend Communications for ARVC.
She told Woodall’s Campground Management it’s “a very good sign” and maybe evidence that campers are confident fuel prices will remain low. After topping $4 a gallon in mid-summer, gasoline prices are now below $2 a gallon in many states.
Between the “Economic Summit” conference call ARVC sponsored in mid-December and conversations she’s had thus far this year, Profaizer is developing an outlook for the new year, coming on the heels of 2008.
“I think 2008 was kind of a non-growth year but considering the state of the economy, I think our parks held their own or had a very slight decline,” she said. “That’s a good thing and it looks like we’re off to a decent start as well in the Sunbelt states.”
Individual RV parks and campgrounds and state associations in Florida, Alabama, Texas and Arizona reported good “snowbird” seasons for the start of the year and account for much of that 41% uptick at the start of this year.
Earlier, Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) and Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI), franchisor for the Yogi Bear Jellystone Park camp-resorts, reported year-end results to WCM.
KOA said camper nights were down 6.6% in 2008, compared to the record year of 2007. KOA added 25 new franchisees in 2008 and added two planned (new construction) campgrounds.
So far this year, KOA parks hosting snowbird campers reported good overnight business but noted that vacationers were reluctant to book long-term stays.
LSI said revenue was up 4% in 2008 but occupancy was flat for the year.
Campground use was up 1.5% in the fourth quarter of 2008 at RV parks owned by Equity Lifestyle Properties Inc. (ELS) and appears to be up again so far this year, ELS management reported in an investors’ conference call on Tuesday (Jan. 27).
“For the first three weeks of the year, we have earned approximately $33,000 per day, about 1% ahead of last year,” reported Michael Berman, CFO, in reference to transient RVers. However, he added, “It appears that our booking window has shortened considerably in comparison to prior years. For example, despite January’s transient growth, February and March are facing about 15% to 20% behind last year.”
The firm’s brands include Encore resorts and Thousand Trails preserves.