The camping uptick is expected to continue for the next five
years as more retiring baby boomers hit the open road. Growing up
in the "height of the Boy Scout movement," boomers have a
"permanent appreciation of the outdoors," IBISWorld notes in the
report. "This generation is expected to be wealthier and live
longer than any prior generation, making them prime targets for an
Even the RV industry, which got pummeled during the recession,
is coming back, with wholesale shipments on track to grow by 7.4%
in 2011, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association,
which says improving credit conditions are outweighing higher fuel
costs and sluggish employment trends.
But campsites are not taking future growth for granted. Many
sites are upgrading facilities to lure picky campers who are often
looking for more than just a patch of dirt to pitch a tent.
Consider the Jellystone Park franchise, where several sites are
adding "splashgrounds" and water slides. Sites are also adding more
rental cabins to attract visitors who don't own an RV, or don't
like to sleep outside. "People who don't normally consider
themselves campers can still have the outdoor experience," said
Michele Wisher, director of marketing for Leisure Systems, parent
of the Jellystone franchise, which covers 78 camping locations
nationwide and whose same-park revenue is up 14% this year.
At the sprawling, 893-campsite Ocean Lakes Family Campground in
Myrtle Beach, S.C., visitors can now enjoy drop-off laundry service
while parking their RVs on special slabs of concrete meant to keep
the sand away. Other amenities include golf carts and a full
calendar of activities, like dinner and a show for $16 a person.
Peak-season rates run $62 a night for a basic campsite to $2,650 a
week for a beachfront, six-bedroom vacation house. Camping is
"becoming more sophisticated as the travel industry itself is more
sophisticated," said Barb Krumm, the campground's marketing
And that includes marketing, as a leading association seeks to
bring cohesion to the traditionally decentralized industry, which
is dominated by independently owned, often family-run, sites. The
National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, which represents
3,300 mostly privately owned member campgrounds, is overhauling its
gocampingamerica.com website to include more information on
individual sites, including videos. The association is also
reaching out to consumer packaged-goods marketers in hopes of
luring more brands to campsite stores, which today typically carry
a bare-bones offering of snack foods and basic medicines.
Campgrounds are "like mini-cities. But they remain a relatively
untapped market for branded consumer products and services," said
Paul Bambei, a former cable TV executive who was named the
association's CEO and president late last year.
Mr. Bambei is working with the Outdoor Channel in hopes of
getting brands to buy ad time on the network for vignettes that
would plug products like a camping lantern, while directing viewers
to the association's website. And he is also pushing for deals with
retailers such as Michelin, in which they would share revenue with
campgrounds in turn for referrals from campsite staff. "We're in a
perfect position to direct the consumer to the place they need to
go," he said.