Increased Investors Interest in RV Parks and Resorts

RV parks have grown in popularity with consumers during the pandemic. Investors have noticed the trend.

For years, RVs have been associated with retirees who spend their golden years traveling the country. But that’s changing and real estate investors have noticed. Encouraged by these changes and seeking higher returns than those offered by traditional property types, these investors are putting more of their money toward RV parks and campgrounds.

“We have seen investor demand for outdoor hospitality properties explode as other sectors have continued to erode,” says Yogi H. Singh, partner of National Land Lease Capital (NLLC), a private investment firm that owns close to a dozen campgrounds, RV parks, and marinas across the nation. “The national shortage of professionally developed, resort-quality assets along with the high barriers to entry, provide insulation to the sector that we find attractive.”

Ambassador RV Resort, Caldwell, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New generation of RVers

Since the start of the pandemic, a growing number of Americans have vacationed in RVs or gone camping. After being cooped up for months, people craved wide open spaces and the opportunity to see new places. Today, RVing and camping remains a popular alternative to other types of travel.

While the traditional RVing retiree segment has expanded due to the aging of the baby boomers, its younger generations that are currently driving most of the growth in the outdoor hospitality sector. Valuing experiences over possessions, millions of millennials and Gen Z are choosing to spend their money on travel.

Colorado River Thousand Trails, an Equity Lifestyle Property (ELS), Columbus, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Underlying consumer demand drivers for outdoor hospitality are strong,” says Carl Kruelle, chief investment officer of Blue Water Development Corp., an Ocean City, Maryland-based firm that develops, acquires, and operates resort-level outdoor properties including RV parks and campgrounds. “There’s heightened interest amongst consumers to get outdoors and experience nature. That’s been a consistent trend over the last several years.”

>> Related article: The Best Collection is Recollection: 2023 RV Resorts Guide

Moreover, younger people are also taking advantage of remote work opportunities that have emerged throughout the pandemic. For many people, this newfound freedom means visiting new places. An increasing number of Americans are adopting a transient lifestyle that RVing offers and taking their work on the road.

“Because younger generations don’t have to be in an office every day from nine to five, being in one location and dumping their money into a home is not necessarily the American dream anymore,” notes Tristan Farrell, president of Sunlight Resorts, a Georgia-based RV resort developer with 30 years of real estate development experience in the housing market. “I think the American dream now is traveling.”

Bella Terra of Golf Shores, Foley, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Few similarities between old and new properties

Older RV parks were mostly just a place to park and campgrounds were just a place to set up a tent. Beyond communal bathrooms and showers, these properties rarely offered any additional amenities.

Today’s new and updated RV resorts and campgrounds couldn’t be more different. They often offer a level of comfort and convenience that was unheard of in the early days of RVing. Some even offer a range of luxury amenities including swimming pools and fitness centers as well as daily activities such as yoga classes, kayaking, and golf.

Vista del Sol RV Resort, Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For example, Sunlight Resorts has implemented fresh design concepts for its two new luxury RV parks in Florida. The firm’s Champions Run Ocala Luxury RV Resort features 482 oversized RV sites combined with park model cottages for short-term and long-term stays, high-end landscaping, and a 12,000-sq.ft.-clubhouse with a state-of-the-art fitness center and a ballroom with a performing stage.

>> Related article: Campgrounds, RV Parks, and RV Resorts: How Are They Different?

Other luxury amenities include a resort-style swimming pool with two hot tubs and a rock waterfall as well as tournament style recreational courts for pickle ball, bocce ball, and shuffleboard. There’s also a signature Tiki Bar.

Sun Outdoors RV New Orleans North Shore, Ponchatoula, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Both Champions Run Ocala and Resort at Canopy Oaks have received the 10/10/10 rating from Good Sam, a leading RV industry organization. The three-number rating is earned based on the property’s superior amenities, cleanliness, and environment. Less than 1 percent of all RV properties in the U.S. receive this recognition.

Sunlight Resorts plans to develop several more luxury RV parks across Florida and the Southeast. Currently, the firm has two parcels of land in Florida under contract and expects to develop at least two new properties annually.

The Springs at Borrego Golf and RV Resort, Borrego Springs, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ultimately, Sunlight Resorts’ goal is to sell its RV properties once they’ve reached stabilization as the firm has no desire to become an owner/operator, Farrell said.

“RV parks and campgrounds are cash cows and they almost run themselves,” he added. “That’s what makes them so attractive to investors.”

Recent entrants into outdoor hospitality ownership such as Sunlight Resorts are joining a handful of investors that have been active in the space for quite a while. For example, the two largest outdoor hospitality investors—Equity Lifestyle Properties Inc. (ELS) and Sun Communities—have been investing in RV parks for decades.

>> Related article: Good Sam Releases 2023 Top Rated Parks

Similarly, Blue Water has been active in the outdoor hospitality industry since 2002. The firm prefers to invest in properties located on water—hence the name Blue Water. Additionally, it gravitates toward assets close to population centers which provide a strong demand base.

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

Most of Blue Water’s properties range from 200 to 700 sites each which provides scale and allows for significant investment in resort amenities to further drive demand, according to Kruelle. It looks for assets that are either under-managed or have significant expansion opportunities.

During the second half of 2022, Blue Water made two significant acquisitions: Endless Caverns, an RV property located in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley and Badlands/White River KOA Holiday, an RV resort and campground adjacent to Badlands National Park.

At the time of purchase, Endless Caverns offered 148 pull-through and back-in RV sites, nature trails for hiking and biking, a zero-entry pool, and a catch-and-release fishing pond as well as kayaking, rafting, and tubing on Shenandoah River. The firm has expanded the property by more than 300 sites.

Cedar Pass Campground in Badlands National Park with Badlands/White River KOA in background © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meanwhile, Badlands/White River KOA Holiday presented an opportunity for Blue Water to add a “unique destination getaway” to its portfolio. The area is a popular dark skies location for stargazers and photographers and visitors can view the Northern Lights from the site in late fall and early spring. The property’s 146 sites offer a mix of RV sites and unique glamping options including a yurt with a skylight for prime star viewing, teepee, and camping cabins.

>> Related article: 10 Luxurious RV Resorts for Summer Travel

However, rising fuel prices and inflation are beginning to take a toll on the industry. As fuel costs increase, the price of RV travel goes up as well. This makes it more difficult for people to afford to take trips and many are cutting back on their travel plans as a result. In addition, inflation is driving up the cost of RV parts and accessories, making it more expensive to own and operate an RV.

The Motorcoach Resort, Chandler, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

However, the fundamental fact remains that camping is the cheapest way to recreate domestically.

Worth Pondering…

Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results, not attributes.

—Peter Drucker

More Campsites Coming

The physics of the camping industry dictates that it takes a lot longer to build a new campsite than it does the RV that’s waiting to fill it

The past winter saw the construction of more than 50 new campgrounds and RV parks offering more than 15,000 new RV sites. At the same time work continued coast to coast on the expansion of many existing parks.

An estimated 81,000 new outdoor recreation sites could be constructed within the next year. That’s according to the 2022 Industry Trends and Insights Report released by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
It’s all a result of record recreational vehicle sales which gained a big boost from the pandemic-sparked drive to spend less time indoors and more in the great outdoors. Increased interest in the recreational vehicle lifestyle has also flowed from the ability of many to leave offices in the rearview mirror and work remotely from their RVs.

Lake Osprey RV Resort, Elberta, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why are so many RV parks opening and expanding?

The pandemic changed many things. It ignited record sales of RVs as people sought to spend more time outdoors while enjoying all the comforts of home.

In 2021, it seemed everyone wanted to buy an RV of some type and go exploring. Also, the phenomenon of working remotely became the norm for many workers. When you work remotely it doesn’t matter where you are as long as there is a good Wi-Fi signal. RV parks can be as good as anywhere else for working remotely. Many remote workers found RV living to be ideal for work and play.

Vista del Sol RV Resort, Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As more people got into RVing, campgrounds struggled to keep up with the unprecedented demand for campsites. In 2021, campsite shortages became a real challenge for many RVers. RV parks responded by expanding existing facilities to have more RV sites available. Landowners realized that developing their land into RV parks and resorts would meet a market need and could be very lucrative.

Related: Campgrounds and RV Resorts Can’t-Wait To Go Back To

Another thing that RV campgrounds started doing was adding unique or luxury accommodations for those who want to get away but didn’t own an RV. Many RV owners want to vacation at parks with family and friends who don’t own their recreational vehicles.

Rain Spirit RV Resort, Cottonwood, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Non-RV camping at RV parks ranges from site-built cabins to furnished glamping tents, covered wagons, treehouses, and a wide range of other distinctive lodging options. Among the newer twists is the offer of yurts, also known as gears, which are circular structures that are both lightweight and portable and are held up without center supports. The ability of parks to offer lodging aside from RV sites can help businesses claim distinct competitive advantages.

Bella Terra of Gulf Shores, Gulf Shores, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Florida on track to add more than 5,000 campsites by next year

By early next year, RVers will have thousands of new campsite options in Florida. Florida will see an additional 5,300 campsites by 2023. That will come as the result of the opening of 15 new RV resorts and the expansion of 13 already existing parks.

“It’s all to meet the needs of the ever-expanding interest in outdoor recreation,” said Bobby Cornwell, Executive Director and CEO of the Florida RV Park and Campground Association.

Related: 10 Luxurious RV Resorts for Summer Travel

That organization hosts, a travel-planning website that features more than 400 campgrounds, RV parks, and resorts, totaling more than 120,000 campsites.

The Springs at Borrego RV Resort, Borrego Springs, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Snowbirds have been spending their winters in Florida for decades but now it’s not just retirees who are coming here but working people with mobile jobs who are discovering they don’t have to wait until they’re retired to enjoy the winter in Florida,” Cornwell added.

The additional campsites don’t even include the addition of 2,100 RV sites that took place between 2017 and 2020. That’s when 14 other parks expanded and seven new parks were added. Several RV parks are also making significant improvements to their sites as well.

Sonoran Desert RV Park, Gila Bend, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New RV parks opened in 2022

Camp Margaritaville, Auburndale, Florida: Camp Margaritaville is a new RV resort (opened January 2022) in Auburndale, Florida where you can choose to stay in your RV in a well-appointed RV site or in a Margaritaville cabin. Camp Margaritaville has 400 RV sites plus 75 cabins. Amenities include full hookups, 110/30/50-amp breakers, free Wi-Fi and cable, picnic table, outdoor kitchen, outdoor TV, Adirondack chairs and hammocks. The 66-acre, island-themed resort also offers a pool complex with a waterslide, a pawsome dog park, a dog grooming station, a golf course, and even a pizzeria.

Related: 6 Casino RV Resorts Where You Can Stay and Play

Pala Casino RV Resort, Pala, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pine Mountain RV Resort, Pine Mountain, Georgia: Located in Pine Mountain, Georgia, Pine Mountain RV Resort boasts 225 RV sites plus cabins and glamping tents. The park just opened in January 2022 and has already earned many positive reviews from guests. Amenities include a swimming pool, a playground, and a dog park for the furry glampers. The owners of Pine Mountain RV Resort are RVC Outdoor Destinations, a well-known name in the luxury RV resort business with RV parks in 10 states.

The MotorCoach Resort, Chandler, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Red Coach Resort, Toney, Alabama: Located 15 minutes northwest of Huntsville, Alabama, Red Coach Resort opened in early 2022. At the outset, the park has 47 sites that include 17 full-hookup RV sites and 30 “primitive” sites. At full buildout, the 60-acre RV park in Toney is destined to have 177 sites. Another 20 acres will be reserved for a horse farm accommodating those who travel with horses. The park stretches along a half mile of riverfront where park visitors will be able to swim, raft, and kayak. Additional acres being maintained as a nature preserve overlooking the river may within the next couple years host glamping cabins.

Canyon Vista RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona

Gulf Shores RV Resort, Gulf Shores, Alabama: Opened this summer Gulf Shores RV Resort’s first 175 RV-level full hook-up sites encircle a quartet of stocked fishing ponds. Five rental cottages that can sleep up to six guests also came online in Phase I. In addition to amenities considered standard at upscale resorts, Gulf Shores RV Resort will feature a pool and hot tub as well as fishing ponds, bike rentals, hiking paths, a dog park, and a pair of pickleball courts. Developed by Memphis-based RVC Outdoor Destinations, this Alabama park has the capacity to be expanded by as many as 500 sites.

Creek Fire RV Resort, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

River Ridge Retreat, Gunterville, Alabama: Unveiled last fall, River Ridge Retreat sits on over 670 acres of beautiful property that boasts both mountainside views and over a mile of waterfront on Guntersville Lake, Alabama’s largest lake. Miles of hiking and bike riding are available on the property. You can enjoy fishing from their banks or large pier. The property is home to abundant wildlife such as whitetail deer and bald eagles. The park currently offers 12 modern tiny house cabins and 54 full hookup 30/50 amp RV sites as well as a unique wedding chapel. All sites include a grill and fire ring, RV sites include a picnic table as well. The next developmental stages include a swimming pool, boat ramp/docks, and more RV sites.

Related: Highly Rated Snowbird Resorts, According To RVers

Katy Lake RV Resort, Katy, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Wilds in Ohio, Cumberland, Ohio: Construction of a new 59-acre RV park has begun in The Wilds in Ohio. This park will connect visitors with the great outdoors and provide a unique camping experience. The Wilds is a safari park and conservation center that is spread across more than 9,000 acres. It includes multiple conservation areas and is managed by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. The park was opened in 1984, and it has continued to evolve and grow over the years. The upcoming park doesn’t currently have a name, but some details and plans for future amenities have been released. It will span across 59 acres and include 46 RV sites and 27 tent sites. A majority of this campground space will be devoted to the preservation of natural areas.

Worth Pondering…

Shoot for the moon, Even if you miss it you will land among the stars.

—Les Brown