What’s Important For Millennial Campers according to Camping Report

by Wendy on October 20, 2016

by: Woodall’s Campground Management

Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) just released the 2016 Topline North American Camping Report, and before the official release KOA leaders and Scott Bahr of Cairn Consulting Inc., the lead researcher on the report, sat down to go through some of the high points with Woodall’s Campground Management.

One of the biggest themes of this second-annual look at all campers in North America — not just KOA campers — was the rise of Millennials, who show far fewer racial and ethnic differences than previous generations. That means that was Millennials grow — they represented 44% of all new campers last year and fully a third of all campers — so, too, does the ethnic diversity of campers.

“Obviously Millennials are the largest percentage of our U.S. population, and they’re definitely a key group of what our business is going to be,” said Toby O’Rourke, chief franchise operations officer for KOA, based in Billings, Mont.

“This group of Millennials is so different than past groups of campers we’ve seen,” Bahr pointed out.

They show far fewer ethnic differences than campers from older age groups, and they’re also more likely to choose a campground based on its atmosphere rather than its location, seeking all sorts of onsite recreation.

“That’s interesting as we think about how we design campgrounds,” O’Rourke said. “It’s a much more social group. This is a new camper, more ethnically diverse, they want to spend time with people, they’re more technologically driven.”

And they’re expected to continue the Baby Boomer trend to want to be more active. As KOA Vice President of Communication Mike Gast said, “We’ve got a lot of campgrounds out there with shuffleboard courts that are never used anymore. Now we’re getting requests for pickleball courts and seeing more use of tennis courts. We’re seeing that impacting the tail end of the Boomer generation, they’re getting more active. That’s going to continue with the younger generations.”

At this point, Millennials predominantly camp in tents. “But when we asked what they aspire to try out,” O’Rourke noted, “49% said they want to stay in a cabin, which is very optimistic for private campgrounds.

“What I think is the greatest point is that far and above any other group they plan to camp more. We’re seeing strong camping, strong optimism about more camping. I think that bodes really well for the future if we continue to keep meeting their needs,” she said. “Figuring out how to service the needs of Millennials and engage them now creates lifelong campers.”

The report provides insights on what that’s going to take, said O’Rourke. “The Millennials are going to be very focused on quality. As an industry we have to continue to modernize our parks. We have to have recreation in our parks, we have to have quality sites. Millennials are demanding excellence and they want quality.

“If we as campground owners and managers can invest in our parks and modernize,” she continued, “we’re going to continue to grow our business with them. I think those campground operators who take time to invest and modernize their campgrounds are going to win the younger camper.”

Lorne Armer, KOA vice president of brand development, said another key is to make it quick and easy for Millennials to get what they want — group camping and lots of activities in a nice atmosphere. “We have a real potential if we can simplify that ease of access with shorter time spans to gain that access, we’re going to win big.”

Bahr told WCM, “They want to camp together and have those social interactions during the waking hours. That’s the kind of experience that they’re seeking. What’s going to bring them back is the places that bring them in, accommodate their group size and are designed to provide that experience, that atmosphere.”

Marketing camping to this group will be different than marketing to previous generations. “They identify more with their age group than with their own ethnicity,” Gast noted. “They’re into blogging, they’re into influencers who think like they do. It’s going to be a different sort of marketing future for Millennials, and that goes for the RV industry as well. There are big challenges in connecting with these people. They’re more about social media and interaction and review sites.”

That reliance on technology impacts their views of camping, too.

“Things such as the expectation of Wi-Fi is not going to go away with Millennials,” O’Rourke pointed out. “It’s a natural part of life for them. We’re going to have to keep up. They’re more likely to expect Wi-Fi and more likely to be influenced by Wi-Fi.”

And the importance of technology usage isn’t limited to Millennials, it’s growing among all groups. African-American campers put an especially high value on tech access while camping, according to the report. They’re the group most likely to be influenced by free Wi-Fi in campgrounds. “Technology has spiked over the last couple of years,” O’Rourke said, “especially among African Americans.

“Wi-Fi is one of the biggest challenges facing the campground industry,” she continued. “There are lots of different levels you can deliver. It can be very expensive to install properly and some campgrounds are just limited by the availability of options available to their locations. The question becomes, ‘How do we best tell a camper what to expect in a campground?’ Managing expectations may be the key, especially because the importance of technology to guests isn’t going anywhere.”

But for RV park operators who are frustrated with the rising demands of technology, there’s a strong silver lining in the survey’s findings.

“We wanted to look in general at camping and vacation days,” O’Rourke said. “We see a lot of work done by the U.S. Travel Association on people not taking their vacation time.

More campers take their vacation time than the general population — and one of those drivers is technology.”

As a matter of fact, the report notes that the ability to stay in contact with work while on the road extends campers’ stays, O’Rourke said. “People who check email while camping stay three more days. Technology isn’t a limiter, it actually allows you to extend your trip. Our world is more and more mobile. After all, 88% of people camp with their phone.”

That’s up from 83% in last year’s report, and the percentage of people bringing tablets camping jumped to 32% from 21% in last year’s report. Fewer people are bringing laptop computers to campgrounds, but overall, only 7% of campers brought no electronics with them to the campground.


To read the original article, go to What’s Important For Millennial Campers?

For more information on the 2016 North American Camping Report, go to KOA Releases N. American Camper Report

Download the 2016 North American Camping Report


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