The continuing allure of private parks is good news for many Sunbelt cities, whose economies thrive on the annual influx of winter visitors, but some seniors have cut back on meals and other expenses, the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) reports. While a specialty niche, the group represents 3,900 camps and parks and 4,900 members in a multi-billion dollar segment of the travel industry. While revenue and occupancy figures are down at many parks compared to last year’s figures, many parks that cater to snowbirds are reporting business levels consistent with 2008 figures, the association says.
“Many of the private campgrounds and RV resorts in Sunbelt states are reporting higher revenue and occupancy levels this winter than they previously expected based on advance reservations,” said Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of ARVC. “This is good news, not only for Sunbelt parks, but for the communities where campgrounds and RV resorts are located, since their guests often patronize restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations and other local businesses in these communities.”
A national survey commissioned by the association in 2005 found that the RV and camping enthusiasts typically spend about $50 a day on meals out and other expenses unrelated to the cost of renting an RV site. But while the economic impact of winter visitors in Sunbelt communities continues to be significant, the number of retirees spending the winter in private campgrounds and RV resorts varies, with no single geographic region of the Sunbelt enjoying any particular advantage over the other.
Chicago-based Equity Lifestyle Properties (ELS), the nation’s largest owner and operator of RV resorts that cater to retirees, owns and operates 66 Sunbelt parks, including 33 in Florida, 15 in Texas and 18 in Arizona. Even though advance bookings for RV sites in January were initially down, ELS’ system-wide revenue during the first 25 days of January ended up being consistent with last year’s figures, said Thomas Heneghan, CEO of ELS. However, individual ELS park revenues varied throughout the Sunbelt.
“We have some parks that are down 15 percent, while others are up 10 percent,” Heneghan said, adding that the company’s parks in Arizona, the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and Florida all have a “mixed bag” of occupancy reports.
For additional commentary, statistics and sources on the latest camping trends in campgrounds and RV resorts agents can contact the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds or visit www.gocampingamerica.com or visit www.arvc.org.