No one plans on setting records this year in most U.S. business sectors, including the RV park and campground business. But the good news is that the nation’s campground operators are generally experiencing a decent year, based on positive reports thus far from a wide array of locales, from Ohio to Texas and California.
Montana-based Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) is seeing much the same thing after a slow start coming out of the winter, according to KOA Vice President of Communications Mike Gast.
“We have a report that we generate every week called a weekly Flashlight Report, and it looks at camper night trends both on the franchise and the company-owned properties side,” said Gast. “We measure everything from short-term nights on RVs to cabins to lodge and tent traffic, and it’s been getting consistently better, week to week, by a percent or two as it’s gone along – to the extent that we’re now only about 5-6% under last year, and 2008 was one of our best years ever.
“We got off to a very slow start with the winter traffic, so we kind of had our foot in a bucket right off the bat. But it’s been getting progressively better, week to week, as the numbers (volume) have gotten bigger.”
That strong trend is apparently continuing, as KOA’s 425 franchised parks and 25 company-operated facilities are currently ahead of last year’s early reservation pace for the 4th of July weekend.
KOA, for its part, specifically monitors Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day for advance holiday reservations. “And the trend we’re seeing is that, especially on those holidays, people are slower to book,” said Gast. “They’re much more likely to wait until closer to the holiday. At one point, for instance, a couple of months out before Memorial Day, we were 12% under last year. That, of course, was very concerning to us – to be 12% under that early. And it got progressively better every week and we finished up 1% over last year on Memorial Day.”