Camping reservations and RV sales surge as coronavirus lockdowns lifts

After months in lockdown, Americans are ready to leave their homes — and sleep under the stars.

There has been a surge of new reservations at camp grounds around the U.S. The allure of solidarity and outdoor access has prompted a third of people in the U.S. who have never camped before to now consider camping, according to Kampgrounds of Americas, a Montana-based camping company with over 500 franchised campgrounds in North America.

“We know people are concerned about social distancing, and the outdoors provides a great way to do that. Which is why we think there’s a lot of interest in camping right now,” Toby O’Rourke, CEO of Kampgrounds of Americas, told Yahoo Finance.

To reduce the chance of coronavirus infection for campers this summer, Kampgrounds will offer contactless check-in, while keeping shared areas closed — including bathrooms, in certain states, which means campers in tents may need to wait longer before their outdoor adventure. 

The rise of RVs

With their own bathrooms and amenities, RVs have become extremely popular. In fact, RV shopping is up 30% at some dealerships compared to the same time last year, according to a Bloomberg report. And companies like Illinois-based RV provider Camping World (CWH) are poised to benefit from the increased activity. Camping World stock rose 134.7% in May. 

“Many people are coming by RV, which is a self-contained unit, have all of their own things, their own belongings, their restrooms [and] can cook their own food. So it provides a nice way to recreate yet maintain a little diligence about the virus,” said O’Rourke.

Motorhome in Chilean Argentine mountain Andes. Family trip travel vacation on Motorhome RV in Andes [Credit: Getty]

The travel and leisure industry — including camping — suffered during the pandemic. Kampgrounds had a 133% surge in cancellations from March to May. Many franchisees struggled to make ends meet and temporarily laid off staff, though most received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and were able to rehire staff in preparation for campgrounds to reopen. 

“This has been a very difficult time for our businesses. These are small business owners, these are not large corporations,” said O’Rourke.

Sarah Paynter is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @sarahapaynter

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