Business is booming at Olathe Ford RV Center and other dealerships as travelers look to get away during the pandemic. (Photo credit: Kylie Graham, Kansas City Star)

In a time when popular tourist attractions have closed and travelers fear hotels and airplanes, many have turned to RVs for their pandemic vacations. And local RV businesses are seeing demand like never before, according to a report in the Kansas City Star.

“I’ve been in and around this business for around 25 years, and I have never seen anything close to this,” said J.E. Cornwell, owner of KC RVS. “Even in the best of years, there was nothing like this.”

After a period of uncertainty in the spring, Olathe Ford RV Center has seen business “explode” with around an 83% increase in sales compared to last year, general manager Daryn Anderson said.

“All of a sudden, the phone started ringing and the internet got busy,” Anderson said. “The next thing we knew, the last two months have been records by huge margins.”

Anderson attributed this boost in business to people’s desire to get out of the house.

“I think people are quarantining, but they’re also tired of sitting inside their houses and not being able to go out and do things,” Anderson said. “So, they’re buying campers and maybe going to a lake or a state park or a national park. They’re far enough away from the next person, and they can still have a little bit of an adventure and be able to enjoy themselves.”

Both businesses reported demand across the board, including new and used travel trailers, motorhomes and pop-up trailers. RVs can come at a range of costs, from as low as $15,000 to a few hundred thousand dollars.

But initially, the pandemic wasn’t an easy ride for these RV retailers.

KC RVS, a small business in Grandview, had to shut its doors after being deemed nonessential. Not only were dealerships closing, but so were RV manufacturers, creating supply problems for retailers.

“The industry all the sudden had a huge flux of campers — wannabe campers, new campers or guys that had their own campers and they got them dusted off,” Cornwell said. “We were now in a new realm. The problem was when we were all shut down, so were the manufacturers.”

With greater demand than available inventory, KC RVS has modified the way it does business, Cornwell said.

“We’ve got more orders than we have campers coming in,” he said. “We’re now order takers. Instead of having a big inventory on the lot, we had to spruce up our website and our social media to accommodate the new world in which we live.”

Another related business seeing a boom in business is RV parks and campsites.

Leslie Sherman is an office attendant at Campus RV Park in Independence. Over the pandemic, the park has taken reservations from vacationers, locals trying to get out of the house and even a range of traveling workers such as first responders, she said.

And, for the first time, the park is accepting longer-term reservations.

“Because of the virus, we have made some exceptions this summer and have accepted some very case by case, month by month reservations,” Sherman said. “We never ever in previous summers have done long term.”

Sherman said she thinks people are drawn to the freedom of RVing and the ability to distance from others at RV parks.

“People can travel and they can still go and do things, but within the safety of an RV,” she said. “When you stay at a hotel, you’re sharing space with other people, whereas in an RV park, you have your own space with your own family, and it’s completely separate from other people staying at the park.”

Though many challenges have come from the pandemic, Anderson recognizes how it has brought people closer.

“This pandemic, as bad as it’s been, has really brought families together,” Anderson said. “Not only are we confined with them, but we also want to explore with them, and I think that’s where the RV industry has really blossomed.”

See the Kansas City Star report here.