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KOA: Camping Participation Declines Off Record Highs

Source:China Sport ShowRelease time:10-May-2023Clicks:
Article From:SGB Media

Kampgrounds of America, Inc’s (KOA) 2023 North American Camping and Outdoor Hospitality Report found camping, and glamping to a lesser degree, accounted for 32 percent of all leisure trips in 2022, down from a record high of 40 percent in 2021.
KOA in its study, now in its ninth year, said the result suggests that some leisure travelers who started camping in 2021 reverted at least partially to some of their previous travel habits by adding additional trips that do not include camping. However, among active campers, camping trips account for nearly 60 percent of leisure trips and this rate has remained fairly constant year-to-year.
The study similarly found that in 2021, 93.8 million households identified as campers, compared to 92 million in 2022. Again, KOA said this minor drop is likely closely tied to the set of travelers who started camping in the past couple of years but are now returning to previous travel habits such as hotel stays or international trips.
Somewhat encouragingly, 6.4 million new households camped in 2022, down from 9.1 million in 2021 and 10.1 million in 2020, but still well above the average new households of 2 million seen prior to the onset of the pandemic from between 2015 to 2019.
KOA said the outdoor hospitality sector will likely continue to see some shifts in 2023 due to the onset of the pandemic with some campers who started during the pandemic showing they’re likely to re-establish previous travel patterns and remain only moderately optimistic about future camping. By contrast, other campers are looking to re-establish their previous forms of camping or include a set of new experiences in their trips.
A big theme of the 2023 study is that campers are seeking some less traditional ways and places to camp, whether staying on public or private property, or camping at festivals, casinos, or ski resorts, campers will still seek alternative locations.
KOA’s 2023 survey found that hunger for new experiences, whether it’s a specific type of camping or a camping trip that includes a new or unique experience, is driving camping participation in 2023. Year-to-year, about 80 percent of campers try a new form of camping they are unfamiliar with; in 2023, the average camper will seek out three new or unique camping experiences. Trips for natural events such as eclipses, meteor showers and animal migrations are the most common type of trips campers are looking for in 2023, with 40 percent of campers seeking out this type of experience in 2023. Other types of trips that campers are interested in include food tourism (36 percent) and visits to small towns (31 percent).
Glamping also continues to gain momentum. Over 10 million households took a glamping trip in 2022, and four-in-10 campers express interest in taking a glamping trip in 2023, up by 7 percent from the prior year.
There is a much higher level of turnover among campers who started due to the pandemic and Gen Zers, who KOA’s study notes are currently undergoing a great deal of life stage changes. Turnover is also more closely associated with those who started camping for reasons other than the attraction of an outdoor experience. The lack of experience, coupled with a lack of connection, can result in a weaker pull of camping for those leisure travelers.
Additionally, for newer campers, those who haven’t made a commitment to camping via a purchase (such as camping gear) or have not had enough exposure to learn many of the basic skills associated with a camping trip are much less likely to continue.
By contrast, the long-term retention of campers is significantly impacted by campers’ having a connection to nature and the outdoors. Having a great first experience (typically at a campground with a great deal of services and amenities), and similarly, being able to work while camping are also strong predictors of future participation.
Though the COVID-19 pandemic generated record-breaking growth in outdoor travel, 2022 witnessed an increase of about 1.5 million additional camping households—a stabilization compared to the previous year. KOA wrote, “Amid a reshuffling of behavior, new audiences discovering a love for camping are younger, more diverse and more likely to reside in urban areas.”
Even amid economic headwinds, half of campers say that camping offers a more cost-friendly way to travel during a downturn, and 38 percent say they’ll continue to camp, even if the economy worsens. More than half (56 percent) of RVers will use their RV more (33 percent) or the same amount (23 percent) in the case of an economic downturn. Furthermore, campers find that outdoor travel offers physical and mental health benefits, as well as the opportunity to connect with family and friends.
“Camping continues to prove that it is resilient to economic headwinds,” said Toby O’Rourke, CEO and president of KOA. “In fact, 38 percent of campers will continue to camp and take fewer trips of other types during times of economic uncertainty. Camping offers physical and emotional benefits that are important in a reliable, cost-effective way that outdoor travelers seek out.”
Additional key findings from the 2023 North American Camping and Outdoor Hospitality Report include:
Camping’s Impact On Local Communities
On average, campers spent an additional $19 per day on travel expenses in 2022 compared to 2021;
Glampers spend the most per day on accommodations and off-site, spending $393 per day in average expenses; and
It is estimated that campers spent $52 billion in local communities last year, an increase of $8 billion from the year prior.
Gen Z Campers
Participation in camping is getting younger over time, including the highest-ever representation among Gen Z campers, having doubled since last year, who now account for more than one-fourth of all campers;
This year’s research confirms the impact of camping as a teen on Gen Z, with 65 percent of adult Gen Z campers saying their camping experiences as a teen made them want to continue camping; and
Looking ahead, avid Gen Z campers say they plan to take an average of four trips this year that include new or unique experiences.
The Continued Rise Of Urban Campers
44 percent of new campers in 2022 reside in urban areas;
Urban campers camp two more nights on average compared to suburban or rural campers;
Urban campers are more likely to have experienced glamping, overlanding, backcountry camping, or bringing their kids camping for the first time in 2022; and
Urban campers want camping experiences such as those including natural events, food tourism, agritourism, or combining work and leisure travel.
The Resurgence Of The Great American Road Trip
More campers took road trips in 2022, and there is great interest among leisure travelers—both campers and non-campers—to hit the open road in the year ahead;
Almost half of campers (48 percent) are interested in taking an extended road trip, defined as traveling eight or more hours;
Four-in-ten respondents are interested in taking an adventurous trip designed to explore new places;
Nostalgia and creating family memories are two core drivers for a road trip; and
Millennials, in particular, are seeking opportunities to recreate trips from their youth.
Creating Memories For The Next Generation
The stress associated with the past couple of years has resulted in a desire for some to connect more with their families and friends, and camping provides a way for them to create new memories;
Six out-of-ten campers say that creating new chapters in their family’s book of shared experiences is important to them in 2023; and
More than half of campers cite the importance of these shared experiences, whether it’s the way they camp, the stories, or traditions.
Accessibility In The Outdoors
Among all leisure travelers, about one-third view camping as more accessible than other outdoor activities for people with limited abilities, including three-fourths who say that it is either the same or more accessible;
Campground accessibility is an increasingly important consideration due to a higher than national average percentage of campers with physical mobility issues. In total, 37 percent of campers state that finding a location that accommodates their physical needs prevents them from more frequent camping trips or dictates campground selection; and
Those with physical limitations or who travel with others with physical limitations say the top three barriers to camping or more frequent trips include the restroom or bathhouse (46 percent), level or smooth pathways/walkways (37 percent), and adequate accessibility (32 percent).

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