The following Editor’s Notes column by Woodall’s Campground Management Editor Justin Leighty appears in January’s WCM.
While the 2015 boost has been well documented in statistics and anecdotes from various private campground providers across North America, the push outdoors was bigger than that.
The U.S. National Park Service saw a record in visitation to the 409 national parks in 2015 with roughly 300 million visitors. And this year promises to be another record breaker, with 2016 marking the centennial of the national park system in the U.S., an anniversary that will be highly publicized with an emphasis on getting more people out than ever before. The “Find Your Park” advertising campaign and the “Every Kid in a Park” program that offers every American fourth grader a free family pass to federal lands are poised to help drive outdoor tourism.
Paralleling that is Parks Canada’s increase in visits in 2015, with more than 20 million people through the first nine months of the year— prime season —a boost of 6% compared to the same time in 2014. As impressive as that percentage boost is, it pales in comparison to the 27% boost in campground reservations Parks Canada reported for 2015.
The simple fact of the matter is that more people headed outdoors these days, a trend attributable to any one of a series of factors.
Give some credit to the RV park and campground sector’s marketers at every level — as well as the people behind the Go RVing Coalition’s 17-year-old Go RVing marketing campaign — for having kept camping in the public’s eye throughout the years. And thank Cabella’s, REI, Bass Pro Shops and other outdoor retailers for doing their part to help American and Canadian families rediscover the great outdoors since the recession to the extent that new small vendors have been moving into the RV park and campground sector in a significant way.
That much was evident from the late-year conventions, where we encountered innovators who ranged from Colorado aerospace engineer Matt Armbruster’s High Roller USA company making big tricycles for adults to Sabrina Mayfield’s Texas-based Savory Fine Foods cracker seasoning, both of which drew a steady stream of interest.
Meanwhile, Elise Caputo introduced Massachusetts’ Bradford Industries’ cooking fire suppression cover for campgrounds to place in cabins and sell to RVers. Bill Mei with Cyalume Technlogies rolled out a military-grade glow stick, bringing a new product that offers safety and fun to the market.
And for new accommodations, Conestoga Wagons — an offshoot of new Utah glamping resort Conestoga Ranch — sent Jean Otto to offer their camping wagons to the market.
I could go on, but I won’t. Instead, check out this issue’s annual directory (click in the right hand column or here), where you’ll find scores of these new entrants listed, yet another indicator reflecting the growth in the outdoor-hospitality sector.