Despite a deep recession that has consumers pinching their pennies and business owners worrying about how to make payroll, Vineyard RV Park manager Meaghan Bertram wasn’t surprised when a caravan of custom-built, million-dollar recreational vehicles recently rolled into her Vacaville, Calif., facility.
With many vacationers staying closer to home in order to save a few bucks, according to RVBusiness.com, RVing has become an increasingly alluring option for people with sophisticated tastes to indulge in their pastimes, Bertram said. In her neck of the woods, many of those rolling bon vivants are focused on one thing: Wine.
“About 25% of people we see are specifically coming to see the Napa and Sonoma valleys,” Bertram said, “(With the economy), more people are traveling from closer destinations – people from L.A. or parts of the Bay Area are doing a local trip. A lot of people have lived here their whole life and have not spent time in the wine country.”
Bill Mundee, along with his brother Ken, opened the Wine Country RV Park in Paso Robles six years ago. They figured that between Hearst Castle, the Central Coast and the area’s wine country, there was a lot of business to be had. Catering to RVers who want to taste at the region’s increasingly popular wineries has become a large part of their business.
“That’s been our main customer since we opened,” Bill Mundee said.
The Mundees offer wine tasting at the park, point oenophiles to good wineries and are even thinking of starting a shuttle service to take RVers on wine tours.
Business is good, Mundee said. On the weekends when wine festivals pepper area parks and downtowns, his facility will be sold out months in advance.
Though he hasn’t been in the business for that long, Mundee thinks it’s fair to say RV culture has grown more sophisticated.
“They want a place to sleep. They want wi-fi,” he said. “They want to drink wine.”
Mike Nohr, manager of the 21st Annual Manufacturers’ RV and Boat Show, said he’s noticed the growing sophistication of RVers as well, and sees it as a market he can tap. At his Pleasanton, Calif., RV show, for instance, consumers will be able to purchase hot tubs and customized kitchens – luxuries that would never have popped up at his shows a decade ago.
“The old RV stereotype has definitely changed. These are cultured people with distinctive tastes,” said Nohr, whose show is slated to open at the Alameda County fairgrounds on May 15 and run through May 24. “I’ve noticed more and more RVers focusing their trips on exploring our region’s wine country – which is a great thing.”