Parks Relying on NASCAR, Trains and & Poetry Readings to Spur Winter Business
The exchange rate of the American dollar vs. the Canadian loonie brought more thrift-conscious visitors this winter from north of the border to Quail Run RV Resort in Arizona City, Ariz.
“Half of our residents are Canadian and the other half from the U.S.,” said Jeannie Budd, manager of the 324-site park. “We’ve even got a lot of visitors from Nova Scotia. The value of the Canadian dollar has a lot to do with it.”
The park 60 miles south of Phoenix is about 90% full this winter, compared to about 75% last year. The gas prices out here are down,” Budd said. “ People are not afraid to spend their money now.”
Also, she said, park model rentals are doing well.
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A self-storage lot large enough to park about 100 rigs along with 20 new pads (for a total of 132) were added this season to Bakersfield (Calif.) Palms RV Resort.
“The new sites were for our overnighters,” said manager Regina Reese.
Traffic at Bakersfield Palms has been a bit slow this winter. The park was only about half-full in late January, a fact that Reese attributes to the recession, California’s economic woes and recent cool weather.
“This year, it’s been colder,” she said, adding, however, that the root of the problem is the ongoing recession. “Before all this (the recession and California’s economic problems) we filled up during the winter,” she said.
Nonetheless, Reese is optimistic that business will pick up. “People are starting to travel a little bit more,” she said.
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Beverly Beach Camptown in Flagler Beach, Fla., in January finished installing 50-amp service at all of its 150 sites, including 67 on its Atlantic Ocean beachfront.
“We don’t have 30-amp anymore, so we lend adapters to campers who need them,” said manager Karen Siefken. “Because we draw a lot of newer, larger units, I don’t get many requests. But we still get our share of popup campers and tow-alongs.”
The park has a diverse group of visitors, given its rare beachfront location and mid-winter NASCAR and Bike Week activities in nearby Daytona, 20 miles to the south.
“A lot of people will come in December and January because they don’t like the (Daytona) crowds,” she said. “And in February and March, we get people who come here because they want to get involved in the race and Bike Week.”
That’s not to say that Beverly Beach Camptown is a hot party spot.
“We get the mature, over-50 biker,” Siefken said. “Our little town is very un-touristy. And we don’t do anything to promote the race or Bike Week. There’s no bar on the campground and there are no wild parties in the town.
“The biker that comes here wants to go downtown and have a nice dinner in the evening and then come back here and go to bed.”
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French Canadians from the Quebec region arrived in substantial numbers this winter with their RVs at Club Naples (Fla.) RV Resort.
“We are getting busy and filling up,” said Veronica Wolferman, manager of the 305-site resort in southwest Fla. “A lot of people from up North already are fed up with the cold.”
Traffic at the park has increased over 2009, she said. “Business is better now than it was last year,” Wolferman said. “RVing is still the best way to go for a vacation and to get out of the cold. We have a lot of Canadians who have started coming back this year.”
Another trend she’s noted is that more large motorhomes have made their way to Florida’s Gulf Coast, although they’re staying in place instead of moving from park to park. “A lot of people just want to stay in one spot for several months because of the gas (prices),” she said.
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At 9,000 feet in the Davis Mountains in Texas’ Big Bend County, Pecan Grove RV Park in Alpine was looking forward to the 24th Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering in late February at Sul Ross University to pick up business.
A poetry gathering?
“It’s quite a ta-do,” said John Staessens, owner of the 31-site park, who reported slow early winter business.
“We don’t get a lot of people early in the winter,” Staessens said.
That’s not to say that business isn’t improving. “People are moving a little more right now,” said Staessens. “But with the economy, things are just slow here.”
Despite reports throughout the country of general campernight increases, parks in remote areas like 41,000-square-mile Brewster County in western Texas aren’t yet seeing business pick up, he suggested.
“(Increased visitation) goes for more tourist-attraction areas,” Staessens said. “Where the Big Bend is, we are 400 miles from the nearest big town (San Antonio) and there’s not much here after you get here.”
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The winter season has been a disappointment at 117-site Tejas Valley RV Park and Campground in San Antonio, Texas. “It’s been a crappy season,” said co-owner Troy Johnson. “ Normally, I’m full right now. I’m only about half full.”
Johnson attributes the situation to the economy. “People are afraid to spend their money,” he said.
Although it’s counterintuitive because of San Antonio’s often oppressive heat, summers have been better in recent years than the winters. “Winter Texans have been coming down here in the summer with their grandkids while the parents continue to work up North,” he said.
Another trend: “I see smaller and smaller trailers because of the gas prices,” Johnson said. He senses, too, that San Antonio has lost some of the glitter it had during the last three decades as the city’s $800-million Riverwalk was under development. “A lot of people have seen San Antonio once and they don’t need to see it again,” he lamented.
Bob Ashley is an Indianapolis-based freelance writer/editor and a 25-year newspaper veteran.