John Gray, CEO of RVshare

As the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic draws near, it’s difficult to comprehend the devastation that has been wrought within the realm of travel and hospitality over just twelve months, writes Jarad Ranahan at Forbes.com.

From major airlines to world-class resorts, few businesses have survived the past year entirely unscathed — though one industry in particular has seen unprecedented growth.

When it comes to safe recreational travel in the midst of a pandemic, few industries are as perfectly positioned as RV travel. With the ability to explore the remote reaches of the interior United States while keeping human contact at a minimum, it’s no wonder that business has been booming for RV rental companies since mid-2020. In the wake of this sudden surge in popularity, I spoke to Jon Gray, CEO of RVshare, for some insight.

What is your role with RVshare?

I’ve been the Chief Executive Officer at RVshare since the start of 2018. Prior to that, I was the Chief Revenue Officer for HomeAway through the company’s sale to Expedia.

What exactly is RVshare?

RVshare is the first and largest peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace. With more than 100,000 vehicles available, RVshare’s diverse inventory ranges from affordable travel trailers to luxury motorhomes and can accommodate any outdoor adventure, whether it’s a weekend of camping or a cross-country tour of national parks. Through RVshare, families and groups can experience a one-of-a-kind trip and create memories that will last a lifetime. In addition to offering a unique travel experience, RVshare provides RV owners in North America the opportunity to turn their RV into a second income.

How long has RVshare been around and how has it changed during COVID?

RVshare was founded in 2013. The backstory is in 2012, RVshare co-founder Mark Jenney and his wife, Rachel, bought an RV to travel the country for their honeymoon. Once they returned home, they realized that their new RV would sit unused for most of the year, gathering dust while they continued to shell out money for insurance, maintenance, and other ownership expenses. That’s when Mark had the idea for a website that connected RV owners to people interested in renting RVs. Fast forward to today, and RVshare is the largest peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace, with vehicles all over the U.S. ready to be rented.

At the start of the pandemic, RVshare was flooded with cancellations and experienced a huge drop in bookings, causing us to pivot our business to booking RVs for first responders, critical infrastructure workers, and medical trips for a short period. However, when national and state parks began to reopen for camping in April 2020, RVshare saw bookings come barreling back.

The surge in RV rentals was fueled by the desire of American families to maintain control of their surroundings while still getting out of their homes and reconnecting with nature. By September, the company had hit 2 million days booked on the platform doubling our seven-year booking total in a short 13 months.

The pandemic accelerated RVshare’s awareness and consideration by five years, positioning RV rentals as a mainstream travel category.

The RV travel category has increased during COVID. Do you think it’s here to stay?

Absolutely. In the summer of 2020, booking volume tripled for RVshare compared to 2019, with full-year booking volume doubling compared to the previous year. 2021 is off to a strong start as well, with completed bookings in January more than doubling year-over-year and future bookings growing even faster as spring approaches.

While we attribute much of our growth to the flock to domestic, drive-to travel caused by COVID (because people were open to different ways of taking trips), we believe the popularity of RV travel is here to stay. The awareness for RV rentals as a travel category has seen a huge uptick. More than 80% of renters in 2020 were new to RVshare’s platform. After people experience the unique way you can easily see the country (or hometown) in a new light, they are very satisfied and tend to book again.

RVshare also offers RV delivery, which is a great amenity for first-time renters hesitant to drive a big rig. More than 50% of RV owners offer to drop their vehicles off at your destination for uninterrupted enjoyment. Travelers have leaned into this option and see it as a “hotel room wherever you want it”.

See the complete Forbes.com article here.