Winter Slowdown? Not This Year

ben quiggle Oct 13, 2021

As the weather begins to cool it doesn’t appear that the fight for campsites is cooling down — instead the focus is shifting south.

Snowbird season is expected to be white hot — with or without Canadian traffic — as older snowbirds (55-plus) who traveled less last winter are back on the road. This time around though they are having to compete with even more full-time RVers for campsites.

From roadschoolers, to full-time RVers working remotely and Millennial families, there is now a breed of younger snowbirds that are looking to weather the winter months in milder climates.

Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) is seeing a huge uptick in advanced reservations. By early October advanced deposits were up 107% in states that typically cater to snowbirds.

“Florida, one of the most popular destinations, is up 142%,” said Saskia Boogman, director of public relations for KOA. “We are also seeing notable growth in advanced deposits in Georgia, up 141%; New Mexico, up 139%; and Louisiana, up 131%. While (these figures) may also encompass some short-term, leisure camping, it’s safe to say that we’re anticipating a busy winter at KOA campgrounds across the Southern tier.”

Seahaven Marine RV Park in Sneads Ferry, N.C. also anticipates a busier winter season.

“Our winter reservations are strong and higher than last year,” said park co-owner Irina Yashkova.

RV parks across Texas also foresee a busier winter season.

“We do get some snowbirds who stay with us while traveling through to their destination further south. This year, our short-term traffic is up 150% and looks to continue through the end of the year,” said Paul Hancock, of We RV Champions in Tyler.

Brian Sloan, director of sales and marketing for Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Roberts Resorts, said the company is seeing a major uptick in demand for RV sites and park models at the 216-site Gold Canyon RV and Golf Resort in Gold Canyon; the 141-site Sunrise RV Resort in Apache Junction; and Pueblo El Mirage in El Mirage, with 378 sites.

“We have seen an increase of 40% of reservations this season compared to last,” Sloan said, adding, “I really believe that our guests do not want to spend another winter shoveling snow and are eager to enjoy the Arizona winter.  This also puts a lot of pressure on us, probably more than ever before, to deliver an experience that they will cherish forever and keep them coming back.”

Perhaps the biggest surprise coming out of the COVID crisis is that snowbirds are not just retirees anymore, Millennials are jumping in.

“This year, we are actually seeing the highest interest in snowbird travel among Millennials and GenZ campers who are far more likely to work during their trips than other age groups,” Boogman said. “That latest data (shows) that 36% of American Millennial campers indicate that they plan to snowbird. This is followed by GenZ, 34%, and GenX, 25%. Interestingly, only 19% of Boomer American campers plan to snowbird this year.”

If the estimated 50,000 to 100,000 RVing Canadian snowbirds are able to make the trek, this is all going to put tremendous pressure on campsite availability. Something which is already a major issue.

Jennifer Mason, owner of the Point South/I-95/Yemassee KOA Holiday, recently told me that she has had to extend her campsite booking window to 14-16 months due to the demand for sites at her park — which attracts snowbirds.

“We are telling people to book asap,” she noted, highlighting that she is already full for this winter.

So, while the northern-tier parks are wrapping up their busy year, it doesn’t appear that interest in the RVing lifestyle is dying down — it is just shifting to warmer regions.