Team Outdoorsy
by Team Outdoorsy
Posted March 26, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many forms of travel to a halt over the last year, but one option that remains attractive for many consumers is traveling by recreational vehicle. RV travel has been thriving in the pandemic, with a bump in RV shipments and strong revenues for campgrounds and RV parks last year.
There are a few reasons why RV travel still holds appeal in the COVID-19 era. When traveling and staying in one’s own vehicle, there is less reason to fear exposure to the virus when the alternatives involve sharing space with others in an airport, restaurant, or hotel. Further, many of the destinations people seek out when traveling by RV are outdoor, natural attractions which are similarly less risky.

While COVID-19 has stoked additional interest in RVs recently, demand for RVs has in fact been growing steadily for several years. One of the big factors behind this trend has been the U.S.’s growing number of retirees. As Boomers age out of the workforce, many of them are taking to the road in RVs and campers to enjoy their retirement. But RVs hold appeal for younger Americans, too—22 percent of the market is 18 to 34-year-olds, who are increasingly buying or renting RVs for camping and other outdoor activities.

Over the past two years, monthly RV shipments were consistently reaching 30,000 or more—already strong figures—until stay-in-place orders took effect in March and April of 2020. But over the summer, shipments rebounded even stronger, topping 40,000 RVs per month throughout the second half of the year. And industry experts expect this trend to continue, with shipments for 2021 projected to exceed 500,000 vehicles, which would be a record figure for the industry.

Increased interest in buying and renting RVs has also been good business for those operating RV parks and recreational camps—an industry sector that includes both RV parks and campgrounds as well as recreational vacation camps, such as hunting camps, fishing camps, and dude ranches. While revenues for such establishments also dipped during the initial COVID-19 shutdowns, the overall trajectory dating back to 2012 has been positive. During the busy spring and summer months, total industry sector revenues now regularly exceed $2 billion quarterly nationwide, of which RV parks and campgrounds account for about half. Even in the slower winter months, revenues have topped $1 billion per quarter every year since 2017.

Some states are reaping the benefits of this interest more than others. Many of the states in the Western United States, which have plentiful protected parklands and natural attractions suited for camping and outdoor excursions. The most prosperous of these Western states is South Dakota, home to six national parks or monuments, including one of America’s top tourist attractions in Mount Rushmore.

But it is Maine, the New England state that bills itself “Vacationland,” that takes the top spot among states when considering per capita sales at RV parks and campgrounds. Maine draws travelers to its numerous natural attractions, including Acadia National Park and the state’s scenic coast, mountains, and woodland regions. The state generates more than $600,000 in annual sales at RV campgrounds per 10,000 residents.

TRENDING

Outdoorsy has detailed guides on national parks. Read about the Rocky Mountain National Park or White Sands National Park—two of the most popular choices of 2020—and plan your next road trip soon.

Having popular tourist attractions nearby is also a strong indicator of RV campground sales at the metro level. For this reason, metro areas like Rapid City, SD (Mount Rushmore), and Orlando (Disneyworld and other theme parks) top our list of the metropolitan areas that generate the most revenue from RV parks and campgrounds. To find these locations, researchers at Outdoorsy used data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Economic Census to calculate the annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds per 10,000 residents.

Here are the metropolitan areas most dependent on RV parks and campgrounds.

Large metros most dependent on RV parks & campgrounds

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

15. Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY

  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds (per 10k residents): $63,788
  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds: $5,618,000
  • Density of RV parks and campgrounds: +49.9%
  • Employment at RV parks and campgrounds:  -53.1%

RELATED

As the country reopens, be sure to check which National Park System parks are open before you hit the road.

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

14. Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY

  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds (per 10k residents): $72,998
  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds: $8,250,000
  • Density of RV parks and campgrounds:  -24.4%
  • Employment at RV parks and campgrounds:  -53.0%
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

13. Pittsburgh, PA

  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds (per 10k residents): $82,584
  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds: $19,254,000
  • Density of RV parks and campgrounds:  -16.7%
  • Employment at RV parks and campgrounds:  -14.5%
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

12. Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, CA

  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds (per 10k residents): $94,228
  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds: $21,823,000
  • Density of RV parks and campgrounds:  -22.9%
  • Employment at RV parks and campgrounds: +42.1%
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

11. San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX

  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds (per 10k residents): $95,110
  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds: $23,475,000
  • Density of RV parks and campgrounds: +10.1%
  • Employment at RV parks and campgrounds: +40.5%
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

10. Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI

  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds (per 10k residents): $96,970
  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds: $10,302,000
  • Density of RV parks and campgrounds: +46.2%
  • Employment at RV parks and campgrounds: +0.0%
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

9. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ

  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds (per 10k residents): $105,456
  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds: $50,214,000
  • Density of RV parks and campgrounds:  -34.8%
  • Employment at RV parks and campgrounds: +99.9%
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

8. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV

  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds (per 10k residents): $109,065
  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds: $23,798,000
  • Density of RV parks and campgrounds:  -32.4%
  • Employment at RV parks and campgrounds: +15.7%
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

7. Bakersfield, CA

  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds (per 10k residents): $111,396
  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds: $9,888,000
  • Density of RV parks and campgrounds: +22.5%
  • Employment at RV parks and campgrounds: +111.2%
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

6. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL

  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds (per 10k residents): $118,737
  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds: $36,783,000
  • Density of RV parks and campgrounds:  -22.3%
  • Employment at RV parks and campgrounds: +6.2%
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

5. San Diego-Carlsbad, CA

  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds (per 10k residents): $133,284
  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds: $44,198,000
  • Density of RV parks and campgrounds:  -46.1%
  • Employment at RV parks and campgrounds: +52.7%

TRENDING

Time for a road trip? The Grand Canyon National Park, Great Smoky Mountains, and Zion National Park are among the most visited parks in the country.

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

4. Knoxville, TN

  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds (per 10k residents): $158,027
  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds: $13,485,000
  • Density of RV parks and campgrounds: +27.4%
  • Employment at RV parks and campgrounds: +9.0%
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

3. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX

  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds (per 10k residents): $165,872
  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds: $14,185,000
  • Density of RV parks and campgrounds: +18.0%
  • Employment at RV parks and campgrounds: +79.5%
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

2. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA

  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds (per 10k residents): $169,134
  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds: $77,133,000
  • Density of RV parks and campgrounds:  -18.3%
  • Employment at RV parks and campgrounds: +124.6%
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

1. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL

  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds (per 10k residents): $526,232
  • Annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds: $132,030,000
  • Density of RV parks and campgrounds: +8.3%
  • Employment at RV parks and campgrounds: +544.7%

Detailed Findings & Methodology

The data used in this analysis is from the most recent U.S. Census Bureau’s Economic Census, released in 2020. To determine the locations most dependent on RV campgrounds, researchers calculated the annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds (per 10k residents). In the event of a tie, the location with the greater annual sales at RV parks and campgrounds was ranked higher. Researchers also calculated the density of RV parks and campground businesses per capita relative to the national level, as well as per capita employment at these establishments relative to the national level. To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 residents were included. Additionally, metros were grouped into cohorts based on population size: small (100,000–349,999), midsize (350,000–749,999), and large (750,000 or more).

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