KOA Report Highlights Positive Trends, with Diversity, Family Numbers Showing More Growth

ben quiggle May 05, 2021
people around a campfire

It is no secret that camping and RVing are attracting large numbers of new entrants looking to explore the great outdoors and take a break from their hectic daily lives.

Some are even bringing work and school with them.

With many RV parks and campgrounds now offering Wi-Fi, remote workers and homeschoolers are finding that RVs allow them to enjoy traveling for longer periods of time, while also keeping up with the demands of their careers and education.  

The recent 2021North American Camping Report, released by Billings, Mont.-based Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) continues to spell these trends out.

In 2020, the report saw a four million increase in the number of active camper households, the largest one-year jump in active camper households since KOA began the report in 2014.

“There were a lot of new people that started camping, and that is a consistent theme throughout the report,” Toby O’Rourke, CEO and president of KOA, noted. “We estimate over 10 million new campers came out last year, which really drove these numbers up. It was an enlarged response to the pandemic and looking for safe vacation alternatives and wanting to be outdoors.”

There is no doubt that the COVID-19 crisis was the spark that drove more to explore RVing and camping for the first time. More than half(55%) of first-time campers cite reasons that can be directly tied to concerns surrounding COVID-19 as a reason they started camping in 2020. 

Campers also stayed at parks that offered a wide range of amenities, including amenities that allowed them to social distance and work/school from the road.

Two-thirds (66%) of first-time campers also said that they stayed at parks that offered a great deal of enhanced amenities or provided at least some amenities, such as a bathhouse with running water, electric hookups, etc.

As more people hit the road to find their next adventure, campground owners also reported a more diverse population of campers showing up at their parks. This is borne out in the KOA report, with 60% of first-time campers in 2020 reporting that they came from non-white groups.

This is a win for the camping industry as it works to cater to a wide range of campers and welcome new groups to the lifestyle.

Along with more diversity, families are also coming out in full force, which means younger children are getting more exposure to camping —a trend that historically bodes well for the future of the industry. Fifty-four percent of campers reported that they have minor children in the household.

The great thing about the new camping families is that a majority of them (63%) reported that they intend to keep camping, while 64% of campers with children plan to camp even more in 2021. That means the industry is winning over more people, including younger demographics, for the long-term.

“We also see that 13.5 million camped at least one time in 2020, that is a significant increase from the over five million that did so in 2019,” noted O’Rourke. “These numbers just show the sheer amount of people that were trying it for the first time and maybe only camped once.”

Other Key Data Points are Below:

How COVID-19 Changed the Camping Experience

  • More than 80% of campers changed their camping habits in 2020 with one of the most encouraging changes being an increase in the number of weekday trips.
  • Forty-one percent of all campers, and 51% of new campers, say they sometimes or always work while camping. Millennial campers are the most likely to work while camping (54%), up 11 percentage points since2019.
  • Families are the most likely to say that being able to work or school remotely allowed them to camp more often.
  • Up slightly from 2019, more than half of all campers say that access to cell or Wi-Fi service impacts the amount they are able to camp. On average across all campers, access to technology generates six additional camper nights, a rate that has doubled since 2018.

Top considerations when staying at a campground: Safety and security (36%), campground atmosphere (29%), Clean and well-maintained bath house/restrooms (29%), Allows pets and has a pet area (29%), kid-friendly(28%), Family-style bathrooms with showers (26%), Full-service RV sites (26%),Cabins (25%), Easy in/easy out pull-thru sites (25%), and a campground store(24%).

About 6-in-10 RV owners say they plan some type of change or upgrade to their RV in 2020, though one-in-five are uncertain about what those changes may be. Thirty-two percent plan to move to a bigger RV,28% plan to find an RV with more or better amenities and 24% want an upgrade.

Two-thirds of camper households indicate that the availability of vaccines will allow them to camp more and take different types of trips. “We’re doing research on a monthly basis now and we’re seeing that 57% say the availability of vaccines will have an impact on their summer camping plans and about a third of people say they want to be vaccinated before they go camping again,” noted O’Rourke. “Another 28% are waiting for more people to be vaccinated before they camp.”

Camping, in the past, has typically been an activity that allowed people to escape for a weekend and enjoy the great outdoors. But the 2021North American Camping Report continues to demonstrate the changing tides, as younger — and even older — campers look for ways to work from the road and extend their camping trips.

The outdoor hospitality industry is responding with a wave of new construction and expansions that are set to add more than 54,000 new sites in North America this year, according to the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).

What the future holds is anyone’s guess, but KOA’s 2021North American Camping Report continues to demonstrate the strength of the industry at the moment and gives everyone good data points to ensure the good times keep rolling for years to come.

To read the full KOA report, click here.