Younger travelers fuel boom in RV 'glamping' amid pandemic

When it comes to camping, it's all about personal preference. But this summer, many people are swapping those small tents for spacious RVs to elevate their experience in the great outdoors.

The trend is commonly coined as "glamping" — outdoor camping with more comforts and amenities, a.k.a. glamorous camping.

"RVs give you more control over your surroundings. You get to bring your bathroom with you. You get to bring your bedroom with you. You get to have an air conditioner," RVshare CEO Jon Gray said. "These things are wonderful all of the time, but cast in the light of a pandemic, they're incredibly important."

Gray said that when COVID-19 put the brakes on travel, RVs were there to salvage the industry by allowing people to get around safely while maintaining social distance.

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"So, that basically brought a lot of new people into RVing," Gray said. "Four out of five bookers that we had on our platform last year were new to the platform, so these were a lot of people that were trying RVing for the first time."

Founded in 2012, RVshare was the first service where owners could list and rent out their vehicles online. All renters have to do is type in their location and pick-up and drop-off dates. Once they hit the search button, they can filter the results by price, type of RV, and more. 

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"Once you book from them and you come to pick it up, you walk through the RV, find out how to use it, do a test drive to make sure you're comfortable driving it," Gray said.

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As of late April, bookings were already up more than 800% compared to the same time last year.

But there's a new demographic driving the surge in RV culture: 61% of millennials agree that outdoor travel is more appealing now than ever before, according to a consumer travel survey posted to RVshare's website.

 "As the millennial generation is growing up, having kids, and focusing on family travel," Gray said, "they're bringing their earlier desire for experiential travel and combining it with the idea of wanting to have more than one bedroom, wanting to go camping but not sleep on the ground."

And if you're thinking about buying an RV, you might have to be patient. More than 148,000 units were sold within the first three months of 2021 and the demand has been hard to keep up with, according to the RV Industry Association.

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