Nichole Poisson

Nichole Poisson, franchise development manager for Billings, Mont.-based Kampgrounds of America Inc., spoke during the conference. Credit: Jeff Crider

Despite rising fuel costs and continuing supply chain issues, the campground industry continues to experience record growth.

“The enthusiasm continues for camping,” said Nichole Poisson, franchise development manager for Billings, Mont.-based Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), adding that 61.3 million households are projected to camp this year, a seven percent increase from 2021.

Speaking Wednesday (June 8) at the Florida and Alabama RV Park and Campground Associations’ Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo, Poisson cited numerous statistics from KOA’s latest North American Camping Report and other sources that explain why growth is continuing in the campground business.

Poisson was one of more than 15 speakers who addressed private park operators, vendors and industry officials during the Florida and Alabama association’s annual conference, which took place June 6-8 at The Shores Resort & Spa in Daytona Beach, Fla.

The three-day conference attracted 335 attendees, including representatives of 90 private parks and 71 companies who showcased their products and services at the association’s annual tradeshow, according to Bobby Cornwell, president and CEO of the Florida and Alabama RV Park and Campground Associations.

The growth in the campground market has been fueled not only by record RV sales but by record growth in the numbers of people renting RVs through RVShare.com, Outdoorsy and other companies that facilitate peer-to-peer RV rentals.

“There are multiple ways to enter our market,” Poisson said. “RVShare and Outdoorsy and others make it more easy and affordable for more people to enter our market.”

“In 2021, there were over 93 million active camping households. That is a huge number, a huge strength for us,” Poisson said, adding that the industry has added over 10 million active camping households over the last two years, including 6.2 million RVing households.

Florida Conference

Vendors remained busy at the conference as more than 300 attendees took part. Credit: Jeff Crider

Poisson also noted that consumer interest in glamping is not a temporary “fad,” but a trend that is likely to continue. Demand for tent sites also continues to be very strong, she said, citing statistics involving camping preferences of new and first-time campers, many of whom are not only affluent but increasingly diverse.

Poisson said it’s also imperative that campgrounds, RV parks and resorts provide high-quality Wi-Fi because so many campers work while they camp. Wi-Fi, in fact, is no longer considered an amenity, but an essential utility, like water or electricity.

Of course, there are challenges facing the outdoor hospitality industry, too, one of the biggest of which is the shortage of campsites. “One of our biggest weaknesses is inventory. We have a number of new campers and we don’t have enough inventory in our parks to serve them all,” Poisson said.

Private park operators and developers are trying to address this need for additional campsites by building new campgrounds, RV parks and resorts and by expanding existing parks, but this will take time. Poisson noted that it typically takes three to four years to develop a new campground.

In the meantime, demand for campsites continues to grow, giving park operators the ability to raise their rates. “If you think raising your rates is going to stop campers from coming to your park, it’s not,” Poisson said.

However, park operators that raise their rates do need to provide a quality camping experience and amenities for their guests.