Editor’s Note: The following story is excerpted from the February issue of Woodall’s Campground Management reporting on trends in the park model, cabin and yurt industry.
This year might be the year that the recreational park trailer industry snaps out of its multi-year slump.
At least that’s what the major manufacturers are hoping for and telling Woodall’s Campground Management (WCM) for its annual park model, cabins and yurts issue. And to what extent the nation’s campgrounds bolster their covered shelter inventory will go far in determining the success these OEMs experience in 2013.
The major campground chains, Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) and Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI), each reported a hearty demand for covered shelter in their parks in 2012, which encouraged the park model OEMs as they begin to fill the pipeline for 2013. KOA said deluxe cabin rentals, a key point of emphasis right now, was up more than 20% in 2012 with registration revenues growing 19.5% higher than in 2011.
LSI reported that rental unit revenue rose 17% in 2012 from 2011. Double-digit growth has been recorded the past three years.
“Some people (parks) are not really taking advantage of this,” LSI President Robert Schutter said late in the year. “This is an area that we can exploit for many years. We have not maxed out.”
Builders are taking a variety of steps to grow their market share in both the campground and retail marketplace.
Industry leader Breckenridge, a division of Thor Industries Inc., the RV industry’s No. 1 manufacturer, is stepping up its production of rental units for the campground industry.
The company, which captured more than 25% of the retail park model market in 2012, has taken many steps to broaden the appeal of its 12-wide Extendable and Perfect Cottage series, explained Bob Phillips, general manager of Nappanee, Ind.-based manufacturer, which is a preferred provider for KOA and LSI, two of its two largest customers.
“What we’re trying to do is anchor the market we’re in,” said Phillips. “Breckenridge has always been a leader in the 12-wide market. I don’t think we’re going to venture much outside that.”
Forest River Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway company, the nation’s No. 2 RV builder and among the five largest park model makers, has done a total overhaul of its park model offerings for 2013 in its high line Quail Ridge and entry-level Summit product line.
The company has introduced four new floorplans so far and revamped its interior decors for these 12-wide models. Many formerly optional features are now standard on the Quail Ridge line and may be available on Summit products.
Interior doors are now stained to match the cabinets. New cabinet designs and styles, new kitchen backsplashes and hidden hinges for cabinets were introduced. Cabinets now have pulls instead of handles and ball-bearing glides. Kitchen cabinet and pantry shelves are now adjustable. Countertop choices were expanded. Pullout trash cans are now inside the pantries.
New window treatments feature hard valances and give a more upscale look. Accent furniture was updated.
On the outside, new vinyl siding colors were added. Shutters have been added to entry doors and loft windows.
Click here to read the entire article, offering profiles on other OEMs along with the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) inclusion of park models.
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.”
The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) launched a new website Tuesday (June 9) that highlights campgrounds and RV parks in Texas that offer cabin, cottage and recreational park trailer or park model rentals.
The website, www.TexasCabinRentals.net, features more than 130 campgrounds, many of which offer cabins, cottages and park models that can be booked online, according to a news release.
“We’re trying to make it easier for consumers to identify campgrounds and RV parks that offer rental accommodations,” said Brian Schaeffer, TACO executive director and CEO, adding that private parks are increasingly investing in park models and cabins to accommodate people who do not have an RV but want to experience the camping lifestyle.
Several Texas campground owners said they were looking forward to the new website because it will help spread the word about the availability of rental units in private campgrounds.
“It’s often cheaper to stay in a park model than a hotel,” said Jeff Gordon, owner of Raintree RV Park in Rockport, which has four park model rentals. “We’re on the coast, so we get a lot of people from San Antonio, Austin and Houston and the surrounding areas. Many of them bring their boats down and stay in park models because they can’t pull a boat and a camper, too.”
Jim Rowley, owner of the 108-site Pecan Park in San Marcos, has two fully furnished park models, which he said are ideal for people who have never camped before. Each unit is fully furnished linens and kitchen utensils and can sleep up to eight people.
“A lot of people want to know what campgrounds are like, and park models give them a chance to have a camping experience without buying an RV,” Rowley said, adding that his park models are positioned on a bluff overlooking the San Marcos River.
“I definitely think TexasCabinRentals.net will help our business,” said Jenifer Johnson, director of business development for Mill Creek Ranch RV and Cottage Resort in Canton, which has 100 RV sites and 31 park models. “All of our park models are owned by individual owners, and when the owners aren’t here, we rent them out,” she said.