During the stock market collapse and the resulting Great Depression of 1929, many successful investors fled to Europe to escape verbal abuse and public shaming by those who had lost everything. It was a common theme of F. Scott Fitzgerald novels that would feature rich stockbrokers and investors hiding out in foreign resorts while Americans were standing in food lines. And Covid-19 has created a similar environment in the U.S., in which many real estate sectors are destroyed yet RV parks are actually showing record performance numbers. But, as F. Scott Fitzgerald would also say, “it happened gradually and then suddenly” (The Great Gatsby) and the wheels were in motion on what is happening in America right now years ago, and the Covid-19 pandemic was simply the straw that broke the camels back. It’s all about megatrends – those huge shifts that influence every inch of the U.S. economy. Here is what was already setting the stage:
- Air travel is miserable. Starting with 911 and the TSA, flying on airplanes became a horrible experience. Americans dread airports, long security lines, zero in-flight service and rude staff. RV travel avoids this issue.
- Hotels are expensive and a bad value. Even casual lodging chains have adopted a rate of around $150 per night including taxes and fees (and don’t forget parking). RV travel costs around $30 per night by comparison.
- Relationships are the key to happiness (Harvard study results, not just my opinion). The longest-running study in U.S. history (which outlasted those who started the study) was Harvard’s groundbreaking review of the lives of a huge number of diverse individuals and, at the end, whether they rated their life happy or sad. They found that every single respondent that said “happy” shared one common trait: they had positive relationships with others. RV parks are all about relationships and spending time with friends and family.
- The outdoors is more fun than the indoors. You have quietly seen a rise over the years in stores like Bass Pro Shops, which focus on outdoor adventure. People are overloaded with computer and television, and are learning that there is more enjoyment in the outdoors than the indoors. RV parks are all about the outdoors.
- We all crave the basics. For years now, Americans have become disenchanted with frivolous luxury goods and “keeping up with the Jones’”. RV travel is a return to the basics of health and happiness and having a strong relationship with others.
- The RV product is continually better. Those who had not been in an RV dealership in a while are amazed at the quality and pricing of the product today. Today’s RV is not that Winnebago of 1977. The design and quality rivals private aircraft. This has created all new markets for RV shoppers.
- The aging of the Baby Boomers. The “Baby Boomers” are those born between 1946 and 1964, and they are the second largest demographic in the U.S. They are also retiring at the rate of 10,000 per day, with many buying RVs and travelling America in their retirement.
- The growth of the Millennials. This is now the largest demographic in the U.S. and they are already proving to be huge fans of RV travel. In fact, they are the largest consumers of RVs in the U.S. behind the Baby Boomers. This will fuel RV park usage for decades to come.
You can blame Covid-19 for many things, but don’t pretend that those consumer shifts were not already in motion before the pandemic. The death of traditional retail and its replacement with on-line shopping was already in the cards – they just got dealt faster and with more severity. The bottom line is that RV parks are well positioned for all U.S. megatrends going forward, just as they were before the pandemic ever arrived.