18 - May 2018 Woodall’s Campground Management U.S. Has Estimated 77 Million Camping Households, According To 2018 North American Camping Report The 2018 North American Camping Report confirmsallthegoodnewscampgroundown- ershavebeenhearingoverthepastyear.With more than an estimated 77 million camping householdsintheU.S.,accordingtothereport — a number that has grown by more than six million since 2014 — the camping arena is primed for even more growth in the future. “Lastyearweaddedabout2.6millionnew householdsinthatcategory,”TobyO’Rourke, president of Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) told Woodall’s Campground Manage- ment. “So, this is a growing category that I also think is very important for the industry. Our business is up. RV shipments are up. Everybody is still feeling that and we’re not seeing evidence of it slowing down.” Commissioned by KOA and released in mid-April, this is the fourth annual edition of the report, which goes beyond KOA’s guests at its more than 500 franchise locations throughout North America and surveys Americans and Canadians on their attitudes and habits when camping. Administered by Scott Bahr of Cairn Con- sulting Group — who has compiled the last three reports — O’Rourke said that the data is starting to show compounded growth. Accordingtothereport,thenumberofannual camper households — households that camp at least once a year — has increased between 2014 and 2017 by 20%. During the same time frame, O’Rourke highlighted the 64% growth in camping households that camp three or more times per year. “The sizeable increase that we’re seeing in households that camp every year or in households that camp three times or more peryear,that’swhenthesereportsstarttobe very dramatic for me,” she said. “Our data has been showing us that more people are camping. Our numbers continue to rise. A lot of people are camping — but the fact is they’re camping more frequently. That is really encouraging.” Among new campers, the report shows that 40% of new campers intend to camp more in 2018 than they did in 2017. Eighty- eight percent of all campers said they intended to camp more in 2018, according to the report. The ethnic make-up of campers is also shifting, with nearly half of all new campers in 2017beingnon-white,accordingtothereport. “That was eye-popping to me,” said O’Rourke. “That is more diverse than the U.S. Census Bureau population figures. So, we’re seeing more and more diversity at camp- grounds. That’s really changing the face of what camping traditionally was, which is very importantforourfutureandcontinuedgrowth.” Not only are more households camping, but they are bringing people with them to share in the experience, according to the report.Therehasbeenan11%riseinfamilies camping since 2014. “52%ofhouseholdscampingarecamping with children,” said O’Rourke. “And I think that’s a key theme that comes through in the report. Whether it is due to the rise of Millen- nial families that are taking to the lifestyle or whether it’s the importance of getting your children outside. I think children camping is something that’s very important for the industry to look at.” Multigenerationalcampingalsocontinues to grow. “As was first noted in 2015, Hispanic campers are the group most likely to camp with multiple generations,” said the report, “though multi-generational camping has (also) increased among whites.” “We looked at the Millennials and saw that single Millennials are definitely camping with their parents quite a bit and involving their parents in their camping trips, which is interesting to see,” said O’Rourke. “In general, Millennials tend to camp in groups andwealsoseealotofgroupcampingwhen we get into the non-white demographics; Asian-Americans, in particular, are camping in groups. So, camping is still very much a social activity.” Millennials Continue to Drive Growth Millennials now make up 37% of all RV owners, according to the report, while mak- ing up 40% of all campers. “Millennials have been the largest segment of the camper base and that is con- tinuing to be true,” said O’Rourke. “I think that’sreallybeendrivenbyMillennialfamilies that are embracing this lifestyle. Millennials and Gen-Xers will continue to drive this growth and that’s the groups we need to be thinking about in how we design our campgrounds or how we create RV or cabin productsthatareofinteresttothosegroups.” Millennials and Gen-Xers are also driving theuniqueaccommodationsmarket,accord- ing to the study. Nearly all Millennials and Gen-Xers (93%) say they would like to try a newtypeofaccommodationin2018,whilesix out of every 10 Millennial households tried a newtypeofcampingaccommodationin2017. For the 2017 study, O’Rourke said teens indicatedthattheyareexcitedtogocamping with their parents. Mike Gast, KOA’s vice president of com- munications, said the campground arena had anticipated a boost because of the “Baby-Boomer bubble,” but that the influx of younger campers really took everyone by Toby O’Rourke surprise. “I don’t think that we foresaw the bubble that we are seeing on the other end with the Gen-Xers and Millennial campers that are trying it and liking it as much as they are,” he said. “It feels like a real push now. We have got the back third of the Baby Boomers enteringthemarketandwestillhavethissort of unanticipated bubble of younger genera- tions coming up.” Perception of Technology Changing The report indicates that 93% of campers bring some form of mobile device with them on camping trips, while one-fourth of all campers “say it is important to them to share their experiences on social media.” But tides are shifting on how important technology is to the overall camping experi- ence, according to O’Rourke. In 2017, more than half of Millennials (52%) said that tech- nology distracts from their overall enjoyment ofcamping,accordingtothereport;thatisup from 38% in 2016. “We’re seeing more and more people saying technology is a distraction from their overall enjoyment while camping — but they are still bringing their technology while camping and they’re using it as they need it,” shesaid.“Thesedevicesarebecomingmore of a utility, it seems. “But, it’s not like they’re going camping and sitting there and using that phone as entertainment while they’re camping,” she continued. “They are camping and enjoying the outdoors, enjoying their time engaging with friends and family, and that’s the experi- ence. I think people are so connected all the time that we are seeing people get outside and want to just be outside.” But “unplugged” while camping rarely means that campers are completely discon- necting from technology, according to the Millennials and Gen-Xers are still driving the surge in camping and will continue to influence the campground arena for years to come, according to the 2018 North American Camping Report.