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Camping Sets New Record with 57 Million Households Flocking to the Outdoors in 2021

Camping Sets New Record with 57 Million Households Flocking to the Outdoors in 2021

Dec 02, 2022


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The continued explosive growth of camping in the U.S. and Canada has propelled its annual North American camping report into an industry staple. Over the past two years, the pandemic has accelerated continued interest in camping, welcoming millions of new and returning campers year after year. There were more than 9.1 million first-time campers last year, and a third of first-time campers said COVID-19 was the motivation to try camping. This growth has resulted in campers booking their campsites earlier in the season, with about three-quarters (75%) already booking at least some campsites for 2022 by early April. When it comes to camping behaviour, 46% of campers work remotely for at least some of their trips, up from 41% in 2020, including 57% of millennials.

KOA RV camping family enjoying the sunset
Tracking eight years of continued growth and interest in camping, and a surge in new campers fueled by the pandemic, the 2022 survey finds that camping has become a mainstream, widely adopted leisure travel option. Not only do 40% of leisure travel result in camping, but 80% of leisure travelers choose camping or glamping for at least some of their trips. This incident demonstrates the importance of camping in the tourism and hospitality industry.

“Our research shows that camping is one of the main ways families enjoy traveling and spending their free time, as 75% of campers say it reduces stress and helps their emotional wellbeing,” said Whitney Scott, Chief Marketing Officer, Kampgrounds USA Say. "Camping is driving a resurgence in leisure travel and its benefits will drive future market share.

Since KOA released its first North American camping report in 2015, the number of camping households in the U.S. and Canada has increased by 77%. While camping has grown steadily from 2014 to 2019, the industry has seen a 31% increase in the number of people camping at least once a year in five years, and a 36% increase in the past two years alone (from 2019 to 2021). In 2021, 57 million households reported that they took at least one camping trip in the last year, an 18 percent increase from 2020 and the most significant year-over-year change since the report was published. Nearly half (48%) of all North Americans surveyed participate in both camping and other forms of recreational travel, and approximately 1 in 20 households use camping as their only form of recreational travel.

Glamping and RVs are also growing in popularity. In 2021, nearly half of all new campers have glamped at least once, and nearly 15 million households have explored the great outdoors in an RV at least once. In the past, most RV drivers rented or borrowed their RVs for vacations, and now 77 percent of RVers own their own rigs. Likewise, non-RV owners are showing high interest in purchasing an RV, with 32% saying they expect to buy one in 2022.

Other key findings from the 2022 North America Camping report include:

The Rise of the Urban Camper

  • In 2021, camping has seen the rise of urban dwellers as one of the most avid camping segments in terms of trips and camping nights.
  • Urban campers are more likely to camp in tents (66%), but if they are in an RV, they are more likely to be RV owners (82%).
  • They are seeking a variety of new experiences in 2022, including RV (58%), backcountry camping (54%), road trips (54%), overland (51%) and glamping (50%).
  • Music festivals remain one of the most popular reasons for urban campers to get out, with 44 percent camping for such events in 2021.
  • Looking ahead to 2022, 44% of this group plan to replace traditional leisure travel with camping trips, citing current economic conditions and crowd avoidance as key drivers in their decision.

Remote work camping is here to stay

  • The shift is also having an impact on the camping industry, as the pandemic has had permanent knock-on effects on the way Americans work. A total of 46 percent of campers work at least part of their trips, up from 41 percent in 2020, including 57 percent of millennials.
  • Nearly half of campers believe Wi-Fi is important (48%) and that it impacts their ability to camp so they can extend travel time and stay connected to work as needed.

RV boom

  • RVs are at an all-time high, with 11 million RV owners camping last year and 2 million new RV renters in 2021.
  • Peer-to-peer RV services have increased significantly, with seven in 10 non-RV users saying they are likely to rent from a peer-to-peer service, including 79% of millennial respondents.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Outdoors

  • New campers continue to be more diverse than the overall camper population, with 54 percent of new campers self-identifying as nonwhite. Currently, about one-third of camp families include someone who is Hispanic, Black, Asian or another non-white race.
  • One in four Black campers plans to start their first solo camping trip in 2022.
  • The age demographic of campers continues to trend younger, with millennials and Gen Z accounting for 53 percent of all campers. Seven out of 10 new campers are 40 or younger.

The future of camping

  • In 2021, campers are estimated to spend an estimated $44 billion in local communities while traveling.
  • In 2022, about 7 million leisure tourism families will try camping.
  • It is predicted that land will become the more popular vertical camping. Overland is a self-reliant form of travel, the main form of accommodation for off-road transport vehicles is camping, and the trips are usually longer. In 2021, 27% of campers took an overland trip for the first time, and 46% hope to try overland in 2022.
  • Glamping continues to grow, with 36% of campers taking their first glamping trip in 2021. In 2022, 50% of campers are seeking a glamping experience.
  • Given the growing popularity of camping and the trend towards early bookings, it would be beneficial for interested campers to plan earlier than ever to secure their desired dates and locations. In fact, by April 2022, about three-quarters of campers had reserved at least some campsites for 2022.

Celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2022, demand for KOA camping inventory continues to increase. In 2021, KOA confirmed 26 new franchise locations. Future openings for KOA include new campgrounds in Virginia, California, Alabama, Nebraska, Oregon and Alberta, as well as a new corporate headquarters in its hometown of Billings, Montana.

SOURCE Kampgrounds of America, Inc.

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