As the country began locking down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus the entire travel industry was severely impacted. On April 7, the Transportation Security Administration recorded the lowest number of U.S. flyers screened in the agency’s history when it dropped to below 100,000—a 95 percent decrease from the same day in 2019. On May 20, the TSA screened 230,367 passengers, compared with 2,472,123 on the same day last year.
According to the U.S. Travel Association, domestic and international travelers spent $1.1 trillion in the U.S. in 2019 which supported nine million jobs and generated $180 billion in tax revenue. One-third of coronavirus job losses in the U.S. are connected to the travel industry.
While many summer travel plans have been postponed or canceled because of the coronavirus, one form of travel might be a viable way to go: RVs. As of May 19, bookings on RVshare, an RV peer-to-peer booking platform, were up 1,000 percent from early April. Yes, 1,000 percent.
As the pandemic has halted most forms of travel, families are looking for safe ways to get out-of-doors after months of home isolation. But for some people—about a million, to be exact—living out of an RV is the norm.
Many analysts expect summer 2020 to herald the return of the Great American Road Trip as travelers explore destinations closer to home in the comfort of their own vehicle. Mark Wong, an exec at Small Luxury Hotels of the World, told CNBC, “Road trips—the drive market—will be this summer’s trend. Travelers will be more comfortable hopping into their own RVs or rental units than commuting in mass transportation.”
Nicholas Devane, owner of RV rental company Texino, told the LA Times he was doing good business until having to shut down because “I think corona is making people rethink what a vacation looks like. What is their ability to travel without going through airports? Camper vans and RVs are a great way to do that.”
An RVshare survey found that 77 percent of respondents were looking to make travel plans within the next three months. Sixty-five percent of travelers said they want to be in and around nature including locations like a national park (65 percent) or a lake (47 percent).
RVillage offers a place for RVers (and wannabes) to talk to one another. Whether you are considering purchasing an RV for an upcoming vacation, deciding to leave your conventional home behind, or have been on the road for years, about 3,000 crowd-sourced groups are available to field RV-related questions and discussions. Over 11,000 new RVillage accounts were created in the past month alone pushing RVillage to over 220,000 users.
During the pandemic RVers also use the platform to help plan their next move safely. People are talking to each other and asking what’s open and what’s not open. What are best practices right now if you want to go with your family? Where to avoid? How does social distancing work in the RV?
Even before the pandemic, the RV industry had been showing significant growth. According to RV Industry Association data, beginning in 2009 RV unit shipments increased year over year through 2017 although the number began dropping in 2018 (down 4.1 percent) and even more in 2019 (down 16 percent). RV retail value was over $20 billion in 2018, the latest year for which a figure was available.
Another benefit of RV travel during a pandemic or any other time is the ability to have everything you need for travel within your own space.
As Sir Richard Burton once put it, “man wants to wander, and he must do so, or he shall die.” That being said, traveling around the U.S. isn’t going to be a cakewalk. Different states are in very different stages of easing the pandemic restrictions. Ultimately, we need to know what is going on where. That means don’t travel to an area that has an active shelter-in-place or stay-at-home order. Period! Don’t travel if local communities don’t feel ready to welcome travelers, either.
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.