The pandemic has left plenty of people with canceled vacation plans at the exact moment when they need a break. But in some sectors of the travel and outdoor industry, businesses is booming — especially in the world of RVs.
Colorado RV rentals and sales are up after the initial shock from coronavirus closures, and campsites with RV hookups are seeing plenty of reservations. Jim Humble is the president of Cousins RV with locations in Loveland, Colorado Springs and Wheat Ridge. He’s been in the business for 29 years, but he said he’s never seen a season like this before.
“Just the amount of first-timers that are coming into the industry right now is amazing,” Humble said in an interview with The Denver Post on Tuesday. “They want to take their vacation but going to Disney World or getting on an airplane doesn’t sound super appealing to them, so an RV is a great option right now. We’ve sold so many trailers to people who never would have purchased one, but because of the virus, sales have just skyrocketed.”
The year started with regular RV shows and conferences, but when coronavirus arrived in the United States, Humble had to close his business. He initially took a hit, but at the end of the stay-at-home order, business exploded. Humble said sales in May and June have more than doubled compared to the previous year. And though the season tends to wind down in September, he’s anticipating continued business as people enjoy Colorado’s beautiful fall.
Humble said a lot of these new customers are families where parents have remote work and children have nothing to do. He added that RVs offer families comfortable amenities while getting into nature. This summer, his most popular models are family-style with bunk beds for young children.
Katie Key, president of Escape Campervans — a rental service headquartered in Denver with 12 locations across the U.S. and Canada — has also seen a 150% increase in rentals in Colorado compared to last summer. When the virus first hit, her business experienced a lot of cancellations, but May and June saw a tremendous rebound. Denver was one of the first cities to pick up, along with Seattle, San Francisco and New York, Key said in an interview.
Though she’s lost international travelers, Key said more locals in Colorado have come to Escape for rentals. Her main clientele are millennials between 24 and 35 years old, but she sees a variety of customers from retirees to families.
“Campervan and RV rentals are made to socially distance and naturally made to self-isolate, so it makes a lot of sense for a lot of ages,” Key said.
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Key added that campervans offer other options to get away from the madness of campsites, which are also popular this summer. Vans allow for dispersed camping, where people can park in public spaces. However, Key encouraged guests to plan more than they usually would for camping trips this summer, checking restrictions, stocking up on groceries and trying different sites off the beaten path.
Key has answered a lot of customer questions about safety with coronavirus, especially with first-time campers. She emphasized that her company has created an 80-point checklist for cleaning vans, from wiping down surfaces to scrubbing the exterior, to keep guests and employees safe.
Bridget Kochel, public information officer with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said she’s noticed a lot of families RV camping in state parks this summer. According to CPW reports, RV reservations fell below average in March and April, but both tent and RV campsite reservations are up 22% over the same time last year.
Kochel emphasized that RV campsites are usually already socially distanced, but with the popularity of outdoor spaces this summer, people still need to be mindful of distancing requirements, as well as other camping practices like leave-no-trace.
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Like Key, Kochel also suggested guests come extra prepared with hand sanitizer and masks and check local guidelines online in case coronavirus restrictions change.
“It comes down to how lucky we are to live in this beautiful state,” she said. “This is a great opportunity for people to say, ‘Look at all these parks and open land that we have.’ ”
One challenge for the RV industry: Manufacturers across the country may not be able to keep up with demand. Humble said factories in states with different restrictions are still slowly reopening. But for now, Humble is making plenty of sales, and he’s happy to provide a source of adventure and escape for families.
“Families are trying to find ways to not have this whole stressful environment that a lot of kids are seeing right now with coronavirus,” he said. “I went camping with my family a couple weekends ago and we were sitting around a campfire and I said, ‘When you’re sitting here, you don’t even realize the pandemic’s going on in this country. You’re away from it.’ ”
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