Editor’s Note: The following story is excerpted from the February issue of Woodall’s Campground Management examining park models, cabins and yurts.
A survey the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) commissioned last summer through Precision Research, an Arizona-based firm that has done previous work for RVIA, revealed some broad misunderstandings or confusion about some aspects of the park trailer industry.
The firm surveyed 400 RVers and 400 non-RVers. Results showed consumers in general don’t recognize the phrases “recreational park trailer” or “destination camping” but have a far better understanding of phrases such as “park models” and “seasonal camping,” Matt Wald, the RVIA’s recreational park trailer executive director, told WCM.
To help clear up the confusion, the RVIA’s ad hoc Destination Camping Committee that commissioned the study has recommended to the RVIA board that it adopt the phrases park model and seasonal camping and drop the other terms. The board will take up the recommendations at its March meeting, Wald said.
In the meantime, the Destination Camping Committee and the Recreational Park Trailer committees, whose names may be changed pending the RVIA board action, won’t be meeting again until Committee Week in June, Wald said.
Trough Not As Deep As Commonly Thought
The decline that the park model industry has sustained since reaching an all-time high of 10,143 wholesale shipments in 2006 is not as deep as it is often portrayed, Wald pointed out to WCM. Shipments have tailed off each year since then and have not topped 4,000 in either of the last two years.
However, what was counted as a park model in previous years creates a proverbial “apples and oranges” dilemma.
Up until 2007, not only was the economy stronger than it is today, but also until then all trailer-type units that measured between 320 and 400 square feet were counted as a park model. Starting in 2008, RVIA allowed travel trailers to be built up to 400 square feet rather than limiting them to 320 square feet. Since then, many units that would have been counted as 8 ½-foot-wide park models are now rightfully counted as travel trailers.
“Overall, it looks like a desperate fall,” Wald said. “But if you look just at the over-8½-foot-wide-park models, it still is down but not nearly as much as the overall number would seem to indicate. In fact, it is right in line with other RV types.”
And Wald and the RVIA report some success in tackling the task of accurate record keeping to track wholesale shipments of park models. Until July 2012, shipments were tracked by the RPTIA. Figures for the first half of 2012 were spotty and incomplete and, according to Wald, understate actual production figures. For that reason, monthly RVIA wholesale shipment reports do not provide a year-over-year tabulation for park models for the entire year.
But Wald has coaxed park model manufacturers to go back in their 2012 records to try to recreate a better accounting of their production for the first half of the year. Once better accounting is complete, Wald hopes RVIA will be able soon to report a more complete picture for comparison purposes.