Occupancy in the nation’s campgrounds was up about 3% over the Memorial Day weekend, but there’s a new trend emerging: Many campers are waiting until the last moment to book sites instead of planning ahead. 

Linda ProfaizerThat’s what Linda Profaizer, left, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), reported to the Go RVing Coalitions at its June 8 meeting during RVIA Committee Week in Washington, D.C. 

“People are making their reservations later than they did before, but reservations are coming in,” she noted during the afternoon session at the Willard InterContinental Hotel. 

“Memorial Day would be a great example of that. We didn’t know what the weekend would be like until a week before when reservations really came in. There was a 3% increase in reservations and occupancy this year compared to last year.” 

All things considered, Profaizer said park operations are anticipating a decent – but not spectacular – year. 

“While they might be having a decent year, it’s not going to be setting any records,” she told coalition members. “We are all concerned about our businesses. They’ve been affected (by the economy) like we all have personally. We just have to keep promoting the benefits of camping.” 

Profaizer, at the same time, said that a new market appears to be developing with people who are new to camping. 

“We are seeing an increase in tenting, and please do not ignore the tenting market because tenters become RVers,” she said. “They come into the campground and they see people enjoying the RV experience.” 

Curiously, Profaizer feels that the general public has a lack of understanding about what camping and RVs are about. 

“We are finding there is an amazing lack of knowledge on the part of the non-camping public about what it means to go camping,” Profaizer said. “They don’t even realize that RVs have toilets in them or that campgrounds are not primitive-type camping.” 

As for the Go RVing marketing campaign itself, ARVC, with almost 4,000 members, has seen a decline in participation. Perhaps as a reflection of the economy, only 160 parks have made voluntary contributions to the program so far this year – down from about 450 last year – with an average contribution of $178 per park. Although ARVC had a goal to contribute $50,000 to the Go RVing campaign this year, so far only $28,500 has been raised. 

“That’s really not good,” said Profaizer, whose trade association has never been a major financial contributor to the pan-industry program.