If the estimates of top figures in the RV Industry Association are any indication, the good times will continue to roll at least through the first quarter of the new year.
Those predictions, issued during the RV Industry Association’s 2021 Annual Membership Meeting Zoom conference call on Friday, were highlights of the members-only session, which included updates from the RV Technical Institute (RVTI), Go RVing, RVIA Chairman Jeff Rutherford and President Craig Kirby.
Without ignoring the obvious negative factors in the market right now, especially supply chain issues plaguing most U.S. industries, RVIA leaders unanimously voiced a positive outlook for at least the short term, as the industry finds workarounds for supply chain backlogs.
“We see the near-term demand for product continuing to be strong,” said Airxcel’s CEO Rutherford. “Retail takeaway up through at least the August and September activities continues to be strong. Dealer inventories continue to be lighter than what would be preferred. As a general sense, I would anticipate near term – we don’t look too far out – that we would continue to see the demand for products be very strong.”
Numbers cited during the Annual Meeting’s opening presentation lend credence to the notion of robust growth. Estimates predict 527,000 shipments before the end of 2021, with 2022’s forecast calling for 600,000. The 2021 numbers are a 14% increase of the previous high in 2017. An estimated 11.2 million households are now RV owners and one-fourth of new owners are from the coveted 18-to-34 demographic.
“We just recently had a survey done, and the survey showed that an estimated 72 million people plan to take an RV trip in the next year,” noted President Craig Kirby. “That’s up from 61 million from the survey done a year ago. I think that says we’re not slowing down at this point.”
RVIA Executive Vice President James Ashurst said the optimistic outlook extends across all segments of the industry and, thanks in part to a busy summer and fall season and the recent passage of a federal infrastructure bill, also extends into the campground arena.
The infrastructure bill should make it possible for national park campgrounds specifically to see a multitude of upgrades and modernization measures such as bigger camping spaces, better electrical hookups that would include spots for electrical vehicles and better Wi-Fi and broadband coverage throughout the parks.
“It’s incredible how much money is becoming available to the outdoor recreation industry,” said Vice President of Government Affairs Jay Landers. “Between the Great Outdoors Act and this infrastructure bill, we are at the beginning of a once-a-generation opportunity to work with Congress and agencies in investing in what has become a focus for the government affairs team at the federal level, which is campground modernization.
“Literally hundreds of billions of dollars are going to be made available to invest in infrastructure on and around the campgrounds and national parks and forests,” he continued. “That’s very broad language – ‘in and around.’ That gives us the opportunity to go into the Interior Department and work with them and focus that money on campground modernization. Lots of great things coming our way.”
Landers said there should be ample opportunities for private campgrounds to get a piece of the pie as well.
“Within the infrastructure bill there’s a big provision for public-private partnerships and I think there are also provisions for establishing grant programs whereby private enterprises can put forth some money and get a matching grant from the federal government,” he said. “There are plenty of opportunities going forward. As we dig deeper…we’ll make those things more clear.”
Several other topics were covered in the hour-long session including:
- Kirby looked at who the new owners are and what brought them to RVing. COVID wasn’t the overriding factor. Instead, factors such as a love of road trips, desire to travel in comfort and the use of an RV as a base camp topped the list.
- Executive Director Curt Hemmeler gave an update on the RVTI’s mission to reduce Repair Event Cycle Time (RECT) and increase the number of trained technicians. In 2022, he said, the focus will become not just education, but recruiting more technicians to the industry with a goal of adding 1,000 certified technicians.
- RVIA Chief Marketing Officer Karen Redfern discussed the organization’s pivot from exclusively seeking new buyers to providing education and information to new owners who might not be totally familiar with the RVing lifestyle. For 2022, the mission will be to recruit and retain owners and minimize consumer departure.