by Ryan Uhles of Bakersfield River Run RV Park
For years, many of us have gone to conferences and looked at reports showing how camping is growing. We analyze the trends as they shift between tents, trailers, motorhomes, and tiny homes. Properties shift to the newest fad, whether it be material items, providing experiential activities, or the newest and fanciest glamping options. Even with the past few years of great growth, this year is poised to produce an explosion in the industry that we have never seen before.
There may many reasons that the popularity of camping, RVing, and glamping is skyrocketing. Regardless of the reasons, now is a great time for everyone in the industry, but this time also brings unique challenges and opportunities. In the past, we have commonly seen the love of the outdoors handed down from generation to generation. With the current pandemic, we are seeing families that have not been exposed to nature’s beauty outside of the city now embracing the lifestyle that we all have loved for years.
I have recently seen many articles calling for consumers to be patient. As restaurants reopen, they are having to adjust to a new way of serving, and retail stores struggle to keep shelves stocked. We must be patient with our guests as well; the new wave of campers may not have the “camping common sense” that many of us expect our guests to have. Imagine trying to navigate dump tanks if you have always lived in an apartment, where not only did you not dump tanks but would also just call the landlord for anything out of the ordinary. Suddenly, that same person is our guest and is expected to understand black and grey tanks, hoses and valves, and how to make it all work together, hopefully without any leaks. Are we willing to show them a little hospitality and understanding? Their experiences over the next year will leave a lasting impression for generations to come. Will the outdoor hospitality industry have a few great years only to be forgotten shortly after COVID-19 becomes a part of history? The industry needs to step up and control the perception not only of the loyal guests we have known for years, but with this new and unexperienced group that we will start seeing at our parks as well. Keep our facilities clean and sanitized to make new guests feel comfortable. Take the time to explain the nuances of an RV with that newbie on their maiden voyage.
Think about what you can do to make a someone’s first ever RV trip enjoyable for that guest. Is there something unique about your property they may not understand? Are staff capable and willing to talk someone through why they cannot run both air conditioners, a microwave, their hot water, and a blow dryer all at the same time?
As traveling concerns start to fade, realize that each guest may have different comfort levels. One may want to sit in the office and chat for hours, while another is fearful anytime you start to approach their site. Cabin fever may drive them to start traveling, but that doesn’t get rid of the fear of some, while others may think the pandemic was no big deal and therefore don’t appreciate the extra safety precautions, especially when it limits their use of your facilities.
Outdoor recreation and camping will remain strong for the Baby Boomers and Gen X generations. Five years from now, will the Millennials and Gen Z’s that are now getting their first taste of outdoor hospitality still be loyal guests? I believe that our industry is strong and will emerge better than before. The experience we provide this summer may determine whether the next year is just a spike or is the beginning of many years of great growth. Fads come and go, together we can make camping a lifelong passion for years to come.
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