How Will People Travel After the Coronavirus?

With people still concerned about COVID-19, social distancing away from home can be easier in an RV

With travel restrictions loosening all around the country, where and how will vacationers get out and go? Many will get behind the wheel.

COVID-19 has left most travel industries like airlines, hotels, resorts, and cruise lines struggling for business. International travel is essentially dead on arrival now with numerous countries in Europe alone requiring or planning to require travelers to quarantine for 14 days after they arrive. Setting your sights on a tropical isle isn’t a good idea either.

Camping at Goose Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But one is doing surprisingly well, the RV industry. We’re going to take a lot of road trips. Some one-tank trips where we can go just for the day and come back, not even do an overnight. Cooped-up Americans and Canadians desperate to get out after months of lockdowns are dreaming of doing something—anything—that resembles a vacation.

Camping at Edisto Island State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many are ready to get back to normal and travel. AAA predicts more Americans will hit the highway instead of the skies this year. A recent study by the U.S. Travel Association found 68 percent of people feel safe traveling in their own car but only 18 percent feel safe taking a flight to somewhere in the U.S. It’s good news for the RV industry.

Freightliner Custom Chassis Service Center, Gaffney, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to recent Ipsos research examining consumer interest and planned actions on travel choices in light of the COVID-19 crisis, 46 million Americans plan to take an RV trip in the next 12 months. This positive news for RV manufacturers, dealers, and campgrounds reinforces what dealers are already seeing at the retail level.

Two Rivers Landing RV Resort, Sevierville, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV dealerships are seeing a surge in sales and campgrounds are seeing an increased number of reservations as people plan for summer vacation during the pandemic. The attraction to recreational vehicles is that no one’s slept in that bed except you, you’re using your own private bathroom, and you can still be outdoors. It’s hard for a virus to jump across a campfire.

The Old Bag Factory, Goshen, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With an RV you really know what you have. You can clean it to your personal standard and let the people of your choosing share the space with you. You have a lot more control and yet you still can be outside enjoying nature.

For decades, sales of motorhomes and travel trailers were a reliable indicator of the beginning—and end—of a recession. Sales would dip as a downturn approached and rise ahead of a recovery. But this time, it’s different: sales are rising as America enters its worst contraction since the Great Depression.

Historic Adairsville, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most sales have been reflective of the desire to wring as much recreation out of a socially distanced summer as possible. While more than one in five workers has filed for unemployment, some people are shelling out upward of $100,000 so they can hit the road while staying away from everyone else. Social distancing is a lot easier when you can bring along your own kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom.

Along Bush Highway, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to providing a personal space that allows people to maintain social distance in a safe manner, the RV life also allows people to connect with loved-ones, provides the ability to get away for short, frequent breaks or longer adventures, and helps people reconnect to nature or explore some of the many attractions that are often just a drive away. That’s what RVing is all about. It’s a lifestyle that you never can get going to a hotel or resort as far as camaraderie with other people and that sort of thing.

Arizona Oases RV Park, Ehrenberg, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And social distancing away from home for families can be easier in an RV.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The U.S. has about 13,000 private RV parks and an estimated 1.23 million individual campsites according to estimates from the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (and that doesn’t include campsites in state and national parks). Prior to the pandemic, it was estimated that 60,000 new camping spots would become available.

Canyon Vista RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s not just purchases that are climbing according to Jen Young, co-founder of Outdoorsy which matches 40,000 RV owners with people who want to rent. Though bookings fell during the early stages of the pandemic, they have since skyrocketed.  Outdoorsy rival RVshare also reported a surge in reservations.

The Lakes Golf and RV Resort, Chowchilla, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

People say “‘I won’t visit any place where a lot of people will go,’ so that pretty much (cancels) out all the big city centers and air travel,” she said. “There’s just so much more flexibility in recreation vehicle travel.”

Worth Pondering…

Our nature lies in movement; complete calm is death.

—Blaise Pascal