Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wow, campground fees escalating too!

I love camping and the RV lifestyle ... and regardless of how much it may cost I still believe it is the best vacation value in America and one of the last places you can enjoy a peaceful, fun and engaging family experience.  That's refreshing given the dangerous social climate we live in, not to say anything about the financial challenges we all encounter in our daily lives.

Having said that, a line in a press release from Hershey Highmeadow Campground caught my eye today.  It read; "The deluxe log cabin rate starts at $143 per night. The cabins are fully operational from the beginning of May through Nov. 1. From Nov. 1 until springtime, the cabins will be winterized and will not feature running water, but will be available at a reduced rate."

Stay with me here, I'm not knocking this incredible campground and its close proximity to all the Hershey attractions.  Regular campsites range from $42 to $57 a night in peak season here.

I decided to check on Fort Wilderness at Disney World, always a popular destination camping experience whether you are towing a trailer, driving a motorhome or staying in one of their park model rentals.  In fact, I often recommend the cabins when friends are taking their families to Disney World, especially if they are not "campers" today, with the hope of converting them to the lifestyle we all love.

Disney charges $285 a night for a cabin in the off season, but it will cost you $405 a night in peak season.  At that rate I'm going to have a difficult time convincing somebody to stay in the woods, especially if they have never gone camping in their life.  Regular camp sites in Fort Wilderness (again, one of my all-time favorite campgrounds) will set you back $79 a night for a full hook-up in the off-season and $118 a night in peak season.  We talked about escalating gas prices in our last blog, so adding gas to a 1000 or 1500 mile trip to Florida to play and relax at Disney World  could get very expensive.

I realize these are the high end of the spectrum (I hope) but if non-RVers only see these rates because of the popularity of these destination campgrounds, will we never be able to move them into the lifestyle.

This reinforces the need for the industry to showcase the less expensive, but equally attractive, campgrounds in and around these areas where nightly rates may be in a more reasonable cost structure to make sure we fill them up and keep them in business. 

I am not a campground owner and I am not trying to set prices for anybody in this business.  I bring this topic up today to see how the price of camping may impact where and when you go camping this summer.  I think it's topical given the 80 degree weather we have been enjoying in Boston this week and putting us all in the mood to get the RVs out of storage, clean them up, and head for the open road and some real family enjoyment this year.

How are rates at the campgrounds you are looking at for vacation trips or destination camping this year? 

How far are from home are you willing to travel this year?

What is your upper limit on what you will pay per night for a full hook-up campsite?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lunacy at the pump, and the leading industry association - RVIA !!!

RVIA, the industry association that represents most RV manufacturers, thinks that even if gas went to $10, $15 or $20 a gallon that it would have absolutely no impact on your camping activity or RV road trips.  Really, they said that this week in the South Bend Tribune  -  you can read the full story here:

I'm quite sure you don't agree with them :-)

It is inconcievable to me that anybody working in the RV industry, in any capacity, could be that far removed from reality to make such a statement to the press, regardless of the other items mentioned in the article about the lifestyle and how much people enjoy it.

They are not enjoying it much right now as gas nears, or exceeds, $5.00 a gallon.  RVers understand the impact of gas prices on their enjoyment of the lifestyle, so why can't the industry association understand this?  I hope that the manufacturers that build all the products you enjoy, and who are the primary members of RVIA, will address the perception of RV consumers when one of the association staff say that doubling, tripling or quadrupling gas prices won't phase you at all.

Here's what he said:

"The fuel prices don't really impact RV sales quite the way a lot of people might think," Kevin Broom, director of media relations for the RVIA, said. "Part of it is there's so much savings already built into RVs that stay when fuel prices rise."

The RVIA had San Francisco-based PKF Consulting look into that question, Broom said, and it concluded that fuel prices would have to get to nearly $10 a gallon before the most expensive RV -- a Type C Motorhome -- would lose its economic advantage.

For travel trailers, fifth wheels and folding campers, gas prices would have to rise to $15 to $20 a gallon before those vehicles lose their economic value, Broom said.

What an unbelievable statement to make when people can't find work, the country is head over heels in debt, and RVIA doesn't think that gas at $10 a gallon is going to impact consumers RVing habits or further erode RV sales? There must be a full moon rising over Reston.

Even a consumer with a million dollar Prevost is going to choke when his/her 300 gallon tank takes $3000 out of their wallet. The impact and consequences are even greater with the average RVer who truly wants to enjoy their trailer or motorhome, but if they think $10 a gallon is not going to bother them, then it just tells me that the folks at RVIA have never been in a campground and have no idea how this statement will be ridiculed around the country.

I just can't imagine this industry association making a statement like this when gas at $10 a gallon could wipe out half their membership of manufacturers. While they (RVIA) are vacationing in Palm Springs - far away from reality - maybe they should take a vote and see how many of their members agree with a statement like this being provided to the press. Is this how they are handling public relations and communications in-house these days?  They are actually out there for a Board of Directors meeting.

This is truly an unbelievable statement to make given the state of the economy today? Do they think people are standing around the water cooler telling their friends they are not worried about $5 a gallon gas and can't wait for it to get to $10 and they still won't change their camping or RVing habits?

It does not take an MIT genus to understand that RVers will travel less, more used units will be dumped on the market, and new unit sales will plummet.   

As for the consulting firm they quote in the article, one could question if they have ever spent time in an RV, roasted S'mores around a campfire, or slept under the stars in one of our great National Parks.  I would like to see the questions they asked when they took their survey and what the demographics were of their target audience.

Oh, one other thing . . . in another decision they made in Palm Springs, the Board of Directors voted to open an RV office in China.  I think it would be ok for RVers to wonder about RVIA when they have people telling us that $10, $15 and $20 a gallon gas won't have any impact on how we RV, and then with all the problems we have in this country today, they decide to open an office in China to make it easier for them to knock off American parts, RV supplier products, RV supplies and accessories and start making exact copies of our great AMERICAN MADE RV's. 

So let's see what the RV consumers have to say about all of this.  What is $10 a gallon gas going to do to you, your family, and how will it affect the way you enjoy your RV?