Summer 2022 is shaping up to be a banner season for campgrounds in Indiana and across the country.
That prediction is one of the primary findings of the recently released 2022 North American Camping Report.
Sponsored by Kampgrounds of America Inc., the world’s largest system of privately held campgrounds with more than 500 locations across the United States and Canada, the annual research initiative details the camping habits and preferences of North America’s campers, with this year’s report taking a close look at how camping is currently leading the recovery of the nation’s travel sector in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world, and the travel industry, to a stop in 2020. Flights were canceled, cruise ships remained at port and leisure travelers shifted plans,” the report notes of the early days of the pandemic. “Still wanting to plan vacations, the hunt for alternatives began. Camping, with its open spaces and natural social distancing, provided the perfect way to venture out.
“Already experiencing annual growth, camping saw an incredible rise in popularity among leisure travelers amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” the report adds. “Campgrounds achieved record-setting occupancy, glamping boomed and RVs became more popular than ever. Camping was big.”
And according to the report, those trends continued throughout the 2021 camping season, with even more leisure travelers taking to the outdoors.
As an example, the report found that in total, nearly 57 million households took at least one camping trip in 2021 compared to 48.2 million in 2O2O and 42 million in 2O19, which was pre-pandemic.
Angie Capp, who helps oversee management of the Elkhart County KOA Holiday campground in Middlebury, Indiana, counts herself among the campground managers who have reaped the rewards of that meteoric rise in camping popularity, noting in particular the impact that COVID-19 played — and continues to play — in driving the industry boom.
“I mean, have talked to people here who have come in, and quite a few people have told me their story about how they’ve sold their house, their home; they’re living full-time in their campers, their travel trailers, fifth wheels, whatever unit they have, and they’re traveling the United States,” Capp said of the pandemic’s impact. “COVID kind of showed them and their workplace that they could work remotely, and I’ve seen people with very young children living in RVs and traveling the United States, and doing the homeschooling and working from their campers. And then you have the retired people who said with COVID, it was kind of a no-brainer for them to make the change as well.”
And per the North American Camping Report, all current predictions point to the camping boom continuing well into 2022 and beyond.
“Leisure travelers, who would otherwise stay home, have utilized camping as a preferred form of travel amidst pandemic spikes,” the report explains. “Importantly, many are indicating camping will continue to be a part of their travel plans in a post-pandemic world as we see an increase in camping, RV usage and glamping.
“Camping provided an opportunity for North American residents to seek solace in the outdoors, distancing themselves from the stressors of everyday life while spending quality time with family and friends,” the report adds. “The pandemic pushed millions of new campers outside and the pull of the outdoors continues to bring them back.”
That prediction for a banner 2022 camping season also seems to track with the recently released Campground Industry Market Analysis, a first-of-its-kind comprehensive report sponsored by the RV Industry Association detailing the availability of campsites and campground amenities at federal, state, municipal and private campgrounds across the United States.
“With the significant influx of new RVers in recent years, the data in the report clearly indicates that both the public and private campground sectors within the ‘Outdoor Hospitality’ industry need to continue to grow, expand, and redevelop their supply of facilities to keep pace with consumer demand,” the report notes.
All of this, of course, is music to the ears of campground managers such as Capp, who has already seen a marked increase in customers visiting the Middlebury KOA campground despite it still being relatively early in the 2022 camping season.
“The people have definitely gotten the camping bug after the past couple of years. We are busier than ever,” Capp said of her 2022 outlook. “Memorial Day was huge for us this year, and Fourth of July, Father’s Day, those are also big ones for us. And we’re already booked up for some of those holidays. We’re even booked clear into Labor Day. We’ve got very few slots open for Labor Day. I mean, people started booking clear back in January.
“So, this year is turning out to be quite busy already,” she added. “And then, like I said, last year we thought was really good. So, this year is shaping up to be even better.”
That said, Capp acknowledged that the camping industry is not immune to the current economic climate, with rising inflation, sky-high gas prices and rumblings of a possible recession causing some people to rethink their camping plans.
However, she was quick to note that those cancellations seem to be the exception, not the rule, when it comes to people’s 2022 travel plans.
“We have had a few cancellations, but that just kind of opens the door for someone else,” she said. “And even with gas prices right now, what we’re hearing from the ones who are still going traveling and camping and things like that is that plane tickets are even more expensive right now, and camping is still the best option. So, they’re not going to let the gas prices stop them.
“So, we’re feeling very, very optimistic and very enthusiastic about this coming year,” she added. “It’s going to be a busy one, absolutely.”