Rising Fuel Costs Hinder Camping
Local and national RV campground officials say their customers are feeling the effects of higher fuel prices.
"It's definitely affecting business," said Chris Allen, manager at Ocean Lakes Family Campground in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Although local campground representatives say most people are not canceling their trips, they may be shortening their stays, according to the Myrtle Beach Sun News.
Campers are not venturing as far or as wide as they might have, said Linda Profaizer, president of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
"They're definitely staying closer to home," she said.
Ollie Guthrie, who's camping with Joe Breault and 14 others, said he and his wife will shorten their road trips. Guthrie has a 38-foot, 75-gallon Winnebago Adventurer that takes $240 of regular gas to fill up.
"Last year we went out West" for three months, he said. On that trip, the pair "spent about $5,000 in fuel," he said. "That same trip this year would cost about $8,000. I wouldn't do that."
Meanwhile, other camper owners are asking about storing their vehicles for a monthly or seasonal fee, instead of towing them back to their hometowns hundreds of miles away. That lightens the load and uses less fuel.
Jay Coyle, general manager at Apache Campground, said his 300 storage spaces are full and in demand. "If somebody leaves, there's somebody ready to step right in behind them," he said.
On the sales end of the industry, consumers are not as quick to make purchases. Camper Country sales manager Scott Burleson said "business has slowed considerably."
Burleson said sales for consumers who have committed to buying campers, such as retirees and those with higher incomes, remain constant. "It's that family who's working to pay all the bills and they have that extra $300 to $400 to do an RV loan, but they're not."
The high cost of fuel, coupled with the overall downturn in the economy, is straining the camper industry, Burleson added.
The overall economy has also stalled the expansion or creation of parks across the country, said Profaizer.
Although RV parks nationwide are seeing a slight uptick in business – between 2% and 10% – that number could drop if fuel prices keep taking double-digit leaps.
"As the gas prices continue to escalate like that, we don't know if that's going to result in cancellations," Profaizer said.