Campers Undeterred by Fuel Prices, But Not Driving as Far
With gas prices still teetering around $4 a gallon, it might be logical to think gas costs would deter people from hooking up a camper to a vehicle or driving around in an RV as they embark on summer vacation, the DeKalb (Ill.) Daily Chronicle reported.
That’s not the case, Lisa Flanigan said.
Flanigan and her husband, Rick Flanigan, own Holiday Hour RV in Cortland, Ill., and summer sales have been steady despite gas prices.
Even some big, 30-foot campers have been moving off the lot in recent weeks.
“Camping is still a priority,” Lisa Flanigan said. “They’re not traveling as far, but people still want to get vacations in. Nobody wants to stay home.”
Even staff members at area campgrounds have noticed a steady stream of travel trailers and fifth-wheel RVs making their way through campsites.
Anita Cappel, who owns the Sycamore RV Resort in Sycamore with her husband, Dale Cappel, said campers still are vacationing this summer, though many might be staying closer to home.
Anita Cappel said most of their customers travel to the Sycamore RV Resort from out of state, and business is down about 15% this year.
“If it’s because of gas, that I’m not sure,” Cappel said. “But it probably is.”
In 2008, around the time gas prices were similar to today, Molly Haseman remembers people mentioning the high price of gas when they called to cancel a reservation at Shabbona Lake State Park.
Haseman, office coordinator for the park, said the park no longer takes reservations, so it’s a little more difficult to gauge what keeps people from visiting the campground.
Even with a higher cost of traveling by car, Haseman’s noticed more larger camping units peppering the campground this summer. But many campers who have a large RV in tow are coming from relatively local areas.
“In prior years, maybe they would have gone to Wisconsin,” Haseman said.
“I think that’s another impact (of gas prices).”
A survey conducted this spring by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) showed more than half of RV owners planned to use their RVs more often during this camping season compared to last year.
Many of those surveyed indicated they likely would take more frequent weekend vacations and stay closer to home.
Of those surveyed, 68% said they expected fuel prices to affect their travel plans this summer, whether they plan to travel shorter distances or stay in one location for a longer period of time.
Flanigan said the camping industry isn’t deterred by gas prices because summer vacations still are important to families and flying somewhere is even more costly.
“For the cost to fly your family, you can own half a camper,” Flanigan said.
RV manufacturers also have been adapting to gas-price hikes, and Holiday Hour RV has been selling lighter travel trailers that can be towed by smaller vehicles. Flanigan said in most cases, an extra $1 per gallon of gas usually adds up to less than $50 more for a camping trip with a RV in tow.
Haseman said camping is a good getaway that doesn’t involve a lot of advanced planning, and most people don’t need to go far to enjoy the outdoors.
“We’re getting a lot of local people this year,” Haseman said. “Our primary camper has always been from the suburbs. That’s been our mainstay over the years.”
Though gas prices are making family budgets a little tighter, people are still leaving room for vacations – though gas prices might slightly alter their plans. Flanigan said even though many families have to stretch their dollars today, summer camping trips remain a staple in their lives.
“Because people’s lifestyles are so tremendously busy, I think it’s one of the best ways to relax,” Flanigan said. “People want to enjoy the peace and quiet and enjoy the outdoors.”