As the world navigated through the pandemic, the popularity of camping continued to grow and people turned to the outdoors to find solace and reprieve. Over 66 million people went camping in the U.S. last year and over 8.3 million tried camping for the first time. Amid this growth in camping, a camper visited The Dyrt every second. With overbooked campgrounds, new expectations from campers, and continually emerging technologies, the camping industry is shifting.
A survey by The Dyrt, an app designed to help campers find camping information and book campsites have found private campgrounds are expanding, according to a press release.
Demand for campsites has soared since 2020, far outpacing supply. The survey indicates that in 2022 a significant portion of private campgrounds added campsites and other amenities, extended their season, and raised rates.
“America doesn’t have enough campsites,” said The Dyrt CEO Kevin Long. “National and state parks are booked up months in advance and aren’t able to add capacity. It’s three times harder to find an available site to book than it was pre-pandemic. This environment provides campground owners an opportunity to develop their businesses in exciting ways.”
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The survey included properties in all 50 U.S. states ranging in size from as few as one campsite to hundreds and spanning all types of camping such as RV, tent, and glamping. Over 89 percent of respondents indicated they want to grow their camping business in 2023.
Adding capacity—and glamping
Of the properties surveyed, more than a third (35.7 percent) indicated they added camping capacity in 2022. To add capacity, campgrounds either installed additional campsites for a type of camping they already offered, introduced a new camping type on their property, or both.
Nearly a third of campgrounds surveyed (31 percent) added campsites in 2022 for an existing type of camping on the property including tent sites (35.6 percent), RV sites (30.5 percent), glampsites (13.6 percent), and cabins (11.9 percent).
Of campgrounds surveyed, 17.5 percent said they added sites for a new type of camping in 2022. Glamping (44 percent) was by far the most common new camping type for properties to add followed by tent sites (28 percent), RV sites (16 percent), and cabins (12 percent).
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The survey also found that 79.2 percent of campgrounds that added a new camping type expanded an existing camping type as well.
Demand sparks creativity
Dave Ridgeway and his wife purchased Summersville Lake Retreat & Lighthouse in West Virginia in 2021. “In our first season, we had full hook-up sites, primitive camping, tent sites, and deluxe cabins and we got a lot of requests for smaller cabins or glamping accommodations,” he said
In 2022, Ridgeway added five tiny cabins that offer a queen bed, fridge, microwave, ceiling fan, and unique themed decorations. He says they performed well, particularly on rainy days when tent camping is less appealing. He’s already building a sixth tiny cabin for the 2023 season as well as four vintage ’60s and ’70s glamping campers and a glamping cabin built on the back of a 1969 flatbed truck.
Dyrt president John Hayden says Ridgeway’s property which also includes a hammock hangout, working lighthouse, and other amenities represents an overall trend. “A lot of creative stuff is happening,” says Hayden. “Campgrounds are providing outdoor experiences. The most successful campgrounds have a unique story—and leave guests with stories to tell their friends.”
Raising rates, expanding calendars
According to CamperReport, RV campsites cost between $25 and $80 per night depending on the location, the size of the space, and what connections are offered.
With the recent influx of RV sales, RV parks are raising their rates to keep in line of the high demand of campsite rentals. They can get away with it because it’s all about supply and demand. With more RVs being pushed out by the RV manufacturing industry, the demand for campgrounds and RV parks has exploded and park owners are striking gold.
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The Dyrt’s survey of campground owners also found that nearly half of the campgrounds (48.6 percent) say they raised their rates in 2022 and a similar portion (46.4 percent) say they plan to raise rates again in 2023. Over a quarter (27.0 percent) raised rates in 2022 and say they also plan to raise rates again in 2023.
“In a year where the price of nearly everything increased, it’s not surprising to see private campgrounds increase their rates,” Hayden says. “But inflation is only part of the story. With a trend toward offering high-end glamping accommodations, activities and immersive environments like farmstays, the rates charged by state parks are no longer a benchmark. Private campgrounds are increasingly offering a different product.”
In addition to increasing capacity and rates, private campgrounds are also broadening their calendars. The Dyrt’s survey found that 18.6 percent of hosts extended their camping season in 2022. Winter and fall were the most popular seasons to add dates.
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—Frank A. Clark