ARVC Sees Slight Business Uptick This Season

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July 1, 2009 by   - () Leave a Comment

The economy is affecting the traditional family vacation, and more people are find fun in the quintessential summer activity: camping. 

A giant Welsh rabbit, exotic birds and family contests are on the agenda at Mendota Hills Campground in Amboy, Ill., a popular site for area families in northern Ilinois, according to The Courier News, Elgin, Ill. 

Sue Rogers, one of the campground's owners, said she has noticed an increase in campers looking to de-stress. 

"With all the job changes, we are finding that more people can't wait to get out in the country and hear the birds sing and frogs croak — find berries to eat, trails to hike and outdoors to explore." 

A popular camping destination in northern Illinois is the Union Kampgrounds of America near Union. Director Ernie Teague says the site attracts many Fox Valley residents each year because of its proximity to attractions such as the Illinois Railway Museum, Magic Waters Water Park and Donley's Wild West Town. 

Mike Gast, vice president of communications for the national KOA — a campgrounds company with 450 sites across the nation — says reservations for Independence Day weekend are up 2.5% from last year. 

"It just bodes well for the industry … We are probably the lowest-cost entry point for a family vacation. You can decide to go mid-week and be there by Friday night." 

Mike Ciero, president of the Yogi Bear Jellystone Park in Millbrook, says cabin rentals are up this year, indicating that people who ordinarily would stay in a hotel are choosing to pay the $55 fee at a campground instead. 

The park boasts activities such as miniature golf, tie-dye crafts, ceramic painting, heated swimming pools and stage shows. Ciero says camping revenue was up 5% in 2008, compared to 2007. 

Campgrounds with more amenities such as KOA in Union would cost $29 per night for a tent campsite and $63 for a cabin. 

More-rustic campgrounds such as the Des Plaines Fish and Wildlife Area can cost as little as $8 per night, but the site does not take reservations. It operates on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Craig Weber, board member at the Illinois Campground Association and director at the Geneseo Campground, said he made a reservation this past week for a man who lives just a mile away. 

Linda and Gary Smith of Aurora decided to go camping to celebrate their son's high school graduation. They are bringing their son's friends, as well as their college-age daughter's friends, along for the celebration. 

Linda Profaizer, president of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), said that two of the association's largest franchises, KOA Inc. and Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts, have reported 3% to 5% increases in the number of campers this year. She attributes the increase to the lagging economy and lower gas prices this summer compared to last. Despite a rainy June throughout most of the U.S., Profaizer is optimistic. 

"For the most part, our parks are having a good year. We project over the course of the year we will be up 3% to 5% in numbers of campers. Across the nation, people are taking more weekend trips, Thursday through Sunday. We are seeing more tenters in the mix at the parks. It is an indication of people giving camping a try." 

"Camping is a returning trend because of the affordability," said Profaizer, who noted the national average to rent a campsite for a night is $28. "It gives people the chance to get back to the basics of things. They are not trying to do the exotic things as much as they were in the past. There are lots of things to do at parks, so you don't have to travel too far from home and have a very nice vacation. The campfires at night are just a wonderful way to reconnect and get close."

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