b'GUEST VIEWShaking the Crystal Ball: What Do the Next 5 Years Hold for Campground Owners?and most economic activity contracteddrastically. Campgrounds and RV parks,thathadbeeninvestingheavily,werelooking at the potential of bankruptcyshould they be unable to draw on thecamping public. States and localities werebanningtravelandpreventingcamp-grounds from opening and, frankly, it ap-peared the world was coming to an end Mark Koep & Dyana Kelley until something miraculous happened.The Trump administration announced The current COVID crisis has pushed more people to try out the RVingThe outdoor hospitality industry is on in late April the Guidelines for Reopening lifestyle and in turn park owners are seeing a flood of new campers.the cusp of five years of the most signifi- America. With that document and guid-cantgrowthinmodernhistory,with ance in place, a number of states began tion. In California, Kelley worked directly nowreopenedandwereexperiencingchangethatwilldrasticallyalterthe reopening commerce just in time for the with the governors office of Business and overwhelming demand for their services.makeup, style and needs of campers. Our normal spring camping trips. During the Economic Development (GO-Biz) to de- On the manufacturing and sales side ofindustry will benefit from consumer, po- Back to Camping Summit, Koep laid out velop the guidelines that would serve as the industry, RVs had switched into air-litical and social changes brought on by hisprojectionforaGreatAmerican the official campground and RV park re- planes and were flying off dealer lots. Buy-theCOVID-19pandemicandensuing (Local) Roadtrip predicting that Ameri- opening structure. Equally as important ers who had never even looked at RVsgovernment actions all stacked upon the cans would escape to campgrounds to get wasthereclassificationofCalifornia before were now purchasing sight unseenpreviousfavorableconditionsalready a release from their local environments. campgrounds from hotels and lodging to units for their camping trip that started generating growth in the space. Come Like clockwork, the trips began and early outdoor recreation, clearing the path for tomorrow. Highways and by-ways in July,along as we shake our crystal ball and reports from park owners from states like not only a reopening, but also the ability August and for the foreseeable future arelook at the trends that may benefit our Texas, Florida and South Carolina con- to stay open in the event that hotels and jammed, packed with RVs and camperssector today and in the near future. firmed the estimates that people were lodging were required to close once again. seeking out their next great adventureBack in February, during a presenta- traveling aggressively in RVs. State by state, RV parks and camp- away from local restrictions and awaytion at the Carolina Association of RV At the same time, California, along with grounds began to open for recreational from large crowds.Parks and Campgrounds (CARVC) an- a number of other states, was still main- reservations.Occupancylimitations All of the standard summer locationsnual meeting, Mark Koep, the founder tainingstrictlimitationsontraveland made honoring current reservations chal- that had been dreading a failure of a seasonand CEO of CampgroundViews.com and business reopenings. Dyana Kelley, presi- lenging and some opted to open in full are now dealing with unprecedented de-Outdoor Business Pros., explained to the dent and CEO of CampCalNOW RV Park capacity to serve all those who needed an mand. Replacing the foreign travelers andaudience that the industry was on pace and Campground Alliance, was working escapefromthestay-at-homeorders. tour buses, Americans in RVs big and smallfor a record camping season that would closely with member parks, health officials Several parks opened ahead of state au- filledtheparkinglotsandlocalcamp-continue throughout the next five years to and state officials to establish reopening thorization due to the abundance of dis- grounds. National parks and forests are ex-come. This prediction was based upon paths for parks and campgrounds. The first persedcampers.InyoCounty,which periencing unprecedented demand withthe positive economic numbers, improv- step was to educate the government. stretches along Californias Eastern Sierra locations like Gros Ventre Campgroundining middle-class financial situation, out- Across our nation, government and Nevada range, made the decision to open Grand Teton National Park, a massive lo-door/travel-oriented trends, advances in legislative officials had a dramatic misun- partway through Memorial Day weekend cation with 300 sites, reporting completeconnectivity,interestfromMillennials derstanding of todays RV parks and the afterbeinginundatedwithrogue capacity that sold out every morning by 8and Baby Boomers and an overall resur- capabilities of owners and operators to campers, illegal fires, sewage dumped on a.m. for the entire month of July. Dispersedgence in the camping industry. This infor- open safely.In fact, due to the residential roadwaysandadisregardforpublic camping sites within all of the nationalmationcontrastedstronglyagainst aspect of parks, most had remained open lands. A palpable discord was taking place forests are filled with designated camp-lagging demand for new RVs and lacklus- in some capacity and had already imple- in California and across the nation. Peo- grounds popping at the brim also.ter shipments; people were camping in mentedtherecommendedprotocols. ple wanted out and due to travel limita- On the private side of the business,but not necessarily buying RVs. Then the State RV association executives worked tions, the one safe option was camping. ownersreportedthat20%ofalltheirpandemic hit. tirelessly with their state leaders to pro- Fast forward to July and the vast major- clients are brand new RVers. This influx ofFrom March through May all travel vide the necessary guidance and educa- ity of campgrounds and RV parks had new RVers has been both a blessing and acurse, with increased occupancy and in-come also came increased strife, bad at-titudesandnon-standardbehavior.Travelers who had never driven a vehiclelarger than their sedan were now pullingin, running over and backing into every-thing and anything they could touch withtheir giant home on wheels.Consumers with European vacationbudgets began creating extreme camp-ing/glampingexperiences.Storiesofguestsflyinginalltheirownlinens,dishes, utensils and even ski boats haveswirled across the industry. And with filmproductionandconcertscanceled,campgrounds have also seen an influx ofcelebrity guests looking to escape. Tourbuses and upscale RVs pulling in and re-questing privacy has been more com-monplace than ever before. Park ownerscelebrate their luck while asking whenwill it endall the data points suggestthat it wont end for a long while.As schools put off reopening or switchto running virtual classes and major em-ployers do the same, our entire society isgrappling with a changing environment.Familiesthattraditionallyweretakingtheir last camping trip in early August, asthey prepared for the start of fall sportsand their busy family lives, are now facedwith a near time calendar that is devoid ofany planned activities. Owners are report-ing that they are booked well into the falland many consumers are suggesting that12 -October 2020Woodalls Campground Management'