One indisputable consensus piece of wisdom that emerged from the more than 20 “Staying Connected” online discussions hosted in the past six months by Connect Travel (publisher of the INBOUND Report) is that both domestic and international travelers to and within the United States would be searching for new, different, less crowded and “off-the-beaten-path” travel experiences in.
This shift in traveler intentions was no secret to the team at Kampgrounds of America (KOA), a well-known brand in the recreational/outdoors travel sector. KOA says that leisure travelers predicted in May that their first trip once COVID-19 travel restrictions were lifted would be a camping trip, and the results of the fall special edition of its annual North American Camping Report suggest that those predictions exceeded travelers’ intended level of participation.
The report—”The Growth of Camping Amid COVID-19: Fall 2020 Update”—shows that 21 percent of leisure travelers took a camping trip this summer once restrictions were lifted. One-fourth of North American campers indicate that their first camping experience occurred since the start of the pandemic, and 42 percent say that they will still take planned camping trips during the remainder of this year.
Last month, the Report surveyed general leisure travelers to understand if behavior and sentiment toward camping had changed from initial reporting conducted in May 2020. Not only has camping activity increased, but camping is still considered the safest type of travel, according to more than half of leisure travelers (56 percent), which is a 10-percentage point increase from May results.
When North Americans make the personal decision to resume their travels, 29% of leisure travelers –almost half (45 percent) of campers and even 15 percent of non-campers (leisure travelers who indicate they do not camp) – plan to replace a cancelled or postponed trip with camping. Prior to the pandemic, camping accounted for 11 percent of all leisure travel trips, while post-COVID-19, camping could account for 15 percent of planned trips through the remainder of 2020.
Additional key findings of the “Growth of Camping Amid COVID-19: A Fall 2020 Update” include the following.
Camping Activity This Summer:
—Nearly half of all campers indicated either starting camping for the first time or restarting after having not camped in recent years.
—Millennial travelers represent the highest interest in camping since the start of the pandemic; 19% of —Millennial travelers went camping for the first time since the start of the pandemic representing the highest proportion of new campers.
—One-in-five Canadian campers say that they have taken their first camping trip ever since the start of the pandemic, and another 1-in-5 say that they have started camping again after not having camped in recent years.
—Since the pandemic began, 46 percent of leisure travelers have indicated spending more time outdoors – 57 percent of campers and 36 percent of non-campers.
—Prior to the pandemic, camping accounted for 11 percent of all leisure travelers’ trips; post-COVID-19, camping could account for 15 percent of these travelers’ planned trips through the remainder of 2020.
New, First-Time Campers:
—New and re-engaged campers represent a much younger demographic, primarily Millennials who comprise 40% of all campers and 55 percent of new campers who have indicated taking their first camping trip since the start of the pandemic.
—Camping continues to be a family activity with 82 percent of first-time campers – and 70% of campers who have restarted camping this year – indicating they have children in the household.
—Most new campers (53 percent) have indicated they are currently working from home.
—Those new campers this year are significantly more likely than non-campers to have taken more vacation days since the start of the pandemic; 53 percent of these new campers have taken more vacation days in comparison to previous years.
Camping Amid COVID-19 Concerns:
—Across the board – campers and non-campers alike – rank camping as the safest type of travel. When asked to compare camping to other forms of travel, 56 percent of leisure travelers, 63 percent of campers, and 49 percent of prospective campers feel camping is a safer travel alternative.
—This summer, approximately 80 percent of campers have either planned trips close to home or took trips that were closer to home.
—Private bathrooms while camping are important to 48 percent of all leisure travelers, including 42 percent of campers and 58 percent of prospective campers.
—More than half of general leisure travelers (60 percent) are willing to travel to less popular locations in order to avoid overcrowded areas. This sentiment is echoed by 68 percent of campers.
—Regarding the importance of getting kids outdoors, 49% leisure travelers, and 63% of campers, think it’s more important than ever for kids to get outdoors. Even those who do not self-identify as campers have increased this belief since the May survey (36% of non-campers, +12 percentage).
Camping Forecast for 2021:
—It is estimated that 18 percent of the new campers in 2020 will continue camping in the future.
—Of these new campers, 44 percent of both RV and tent new campers and 40 percent of new glampers indicated they are likely to continue camping into 2021.
—Once state or local government restrictions are lifted, the primary barrier for both campers and prospective campers to camping (or camping more often) is most closely tied to the restrictions due to COVID.
—For campers, work status (28 percent) and financial implications (26 percent) are also important considerations; close to half of mature campers (45 percent) cite health issues.
—Among new campers who are likely to continue camping, the most commonly listed reason for continuing is that it’s relaxing.
Survey Methodology: The North American camping survey was conducted by Cairn Consulting Group, an independent market research firm with extensive experience in the hospitality and services industries. The survey was conducted from September 4-9, 2020. The sampling methodology targeted a randomly selected sample of U.S. and Canadian households who participate in leisure travel. Sampling was designed to obtain n=3,508 completed surveys among representative U.S. households and n=500 representative Canadian households. A sample of n=3,508 U.S. households is associated with a margin of error of +/- 1.65 percentage points. Among Canadian households, a sample of n=500 is associated with a margin of error of +/- 4.37 percentage points. All surveys were completed online via an outbound solicitation sent to a randomly selected cross-section of U.S. and Canadian households.