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RVs, Parks Redefining Camping Experience

June 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Camping has always been a part of Jane Fowler’s life. As far back as she can remember, the mother and grandmother has spent holidays and summers communing with nature, according to a report in the Greenville (S.C.) News.

Now Fowler, her husband, her kids and their families still go camping at least four times a year. But it’s not tents they pitch these days; they’re rolling in RVs.

“We’ve just been camping forever, but it’s so nice now to have the running water, the warm water, the refrigerator, the bathroom,” she said.

Camping is not what it used to be. Thanks in part to the growing popularity of recreational vehicles, which now come with washer and dryers, flat-screen TVs, and central heating and air – and in part to a more connected culture – people are redefining what it means to go camping.

Starting last year, Kampgrounds of America (KOA) began adding “luxury park model kabins” to their sites nationwide. The KOA campground in Spartanburg. S.C.. added two of the new housing options this past winter. Each costs $119 per night for two adults and two kids, versus the $29 a night it costs to camp, but they’ve been booked consistently since, says Vicki Canto, a work camper with KOA who is currently stationed in Spartanburg.

The cabins offer television, multiple beds and rooms, bathroom, and a full kitchen and den area complete with all utensils and linens.

“If you are coming from the idea of camping in a tent, it’s definitely changing because a lot of people have these travel trailers, fifth-wheels, motorhomes, and they are really nice inside,” Canto says.

“You have all the amenities and comforts of home, and the lodges are like that … except they don’t have a dishwasher or washing machine. But still you’re not giving up a whole lot to go ‘camping.’”

Having more non-tent options has also opened up camping to more people. Fowler admits that if it weren’t for the travel trailer, she doubts she’d go camping very often. Being over 50 and sleeping in a tent is just not as appealing.

Plus, the RV is helpful with the young kids, who don’t last too long in the summer heat. The family does an annual Fourth of July trip to Crooked Creek RV Park on Lake Keowee each year, a tradition that would surely get nixed if it weren’t for the air conditioning.

“I don’t know that I would,” Fowler says. “If I did camp it would have to be when it was not too hot or too cold. There is no way I would go up there the Fourth of July in a tent.”

What is being referred to as a “glamping,” or glamour camping, trend has even spilled into more primitive state parks in South Carolina. Devils Fork State Park in Salem offers two- and three-bedroom villas in addition to campsites, and Lake Hartwell State Park in Fair Play added camper cabins in 2007. The one-room buildings are not fancy, says Kevin Evans, park manager at Devils Fork State Park, who was the Lake Hartwell park manager at the time, but they do offer an alternative to tents.

But the biggest trend Evans has seen is Wi-Fi. Even traditional campgrounds are getting on board: Table Rock State Park offers service in the park’s store and the visitor’s center. Click here to read the entire story.

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Campers Enjoying New Options, Amenities

May 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The following excerpt is from an in-depth look at modern day camping authored by Leo Roth of the Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, N.Y. Roth examines several emerging trends, including park models, staycations, WiFi and the popularity of travel trailers. To read the entire article, click here.

As the Memorial Day weekend nears, state campgrounds and New York’s private campground owners are reporting occupancy rates at 80% to 100%, but the nature of camping is changing.

Tim and Stephanie Cicotta of Irondequoit, for example, enjoy camping with their two young daughters, Julie, 10, and Jamie, 9. But their family getaways no longer entail stuffing the car with all sorts of gear and then pitching a tent.

The Cicottas are regulars at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp Resort in North Java, Wyoming County, where the lodging options go way beyond a basic tent campsite. Available for rent are lakeside cabins, camping trailers, chalets and what the Cicottas like best, deluxe cabins trimmed in knotty pine that include a queen bed, sleeping loft for the kids, full bath, kitchen area, fireplace, television, Internet and air conditioning.

“It’s our way of roughing it, I guess,” said Stephanie Cicotta, 33. “The kids loved tent camping but it killed our backs sleeping on the ground. Comfort is a big thing for us. And in a tent, if it rains, the weekend is over. It’s nice to be indoors and the kids like it because we’re still away (on an adventure).”

A stress-free adventure, said Tim Cicotta, 44.

“I think it’s great. It’s camping without the pain,” said the former truck driver who is studying to become an accountant. To read the entire article, click here.

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KOA Reporting Strong Seasonal Camping Traffic

June 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

koa-logoNo 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.”

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