Recreational vehicle rentals are rising as people anxious to get out of their homes look for alternatives to their typical summer travel plans. Because recreational vehicles (RVs) are usually self-contained and, consequently, perfect for social distancing, more people than ever are taking a stab at RV vacation rentals.
Christian Zeno of Lo-Lo-Mai Springs Outdoor Resort near Sedona reports that an influx of first-time RV renters or owners is filling camping sites. “People who have never thought about renting an RV are coming in every day,” he said. “It’s a different crowd than we normally get – and, of course, we have a lot of repeat business as well.”
The COVID-19 edition of the North American Camping Report says camping is positioned to rebound earlier than other kinds of travel. The rebound, according to the study sponsored by Kampgrounds of America, Inc., can be attributed to camping providing safe, accessible ways to get outdoors while maintaining social distancing standards. Forty-seven percent of travelers who camp say they will replace a canceled or postponed trip with a camping trip. Those who don’t camp will substitute a canceled trip with a road trip or hotel/resort trip (34% each), according to the special COVID-19 report.
“A lot of people have reached cabin fever, and they need to get out,” said Marc Kroll, owner of Southwest RV Adventures in Prescott, adding that 25-33% of his clientele are first-time RVers. “RVing is a way to experience the great outdoors, particularly now in the time of social distancing,” he explained.
“Our RVs and travel trailers are self-contained, which means you could go to a campground with hookups, or get out in the woods with no hookups. Our RVs have generators, onboard tanks, white tanks for drinking water, black tanks for sewage and grey tanks to capture shower and sink water,” Kroll continued. Emptying those containers is part of the service his company provides. The rental units are equipped with cooktops that make camp cooking easy, while ovens and outdoor propane gas grills are available on some models.
“A lot of people don’t want to tent,” said James Mageary, owner of Sounds Good Mobile and contractor for Cruise America in Flagstaff. “So with RV travel, they don’t have to tent camp, and they get to be with their family out in the woods.” Cruise America RV rental units are fully self-contained with generators and water storage. “Each has a shower and bathroom. Let’s say it’s a smaller version of everything you have at your house,” Mageary said.
During this time, when people are reluctant to fly because of COVID-19, Mageary is seeing adult children renting the comfortable RVs to transport their elderly parents. “They are driving back East to pick up their parents and then bringing them back to their own homes for care. It’s a fun way to spend time with their parents.” He said that the lockdown slowed his RV rental business, but the tide has turned. “Now we are booking into August – I haven’t seen this before.”
“If you’re going to a campground, you need to get in early. Reserve a spot early because all national parks are booked,” warned Mageary. Most of Mageary’s clients who stop over in Flagstaff camp at Flagstaff KOA.
“Campgrounds will be more crowded than ever,” predicted Mike Wendland, blogger at RVLifestyle.com. “With some state and public campgrounds expected to be still closed or limited to in-state camping this summer, all those new RVers are going to make it even harder to book camping spots.”
“Every weekend is full, like during holiday weekends. We’ve been here for 40 years as a family business, and this is by far the craziest thing we’ve ever seen,” added Zeno, office manager at Lo-Lo-Mai Springs.
Kroll, too, reported that business at Southwest RV Adventures is up significantly more than this time last year. He provides concierge service that sometimes includes custom delivery to airports around the region, including Sedona, Las Vegas and Page.
Courtney Stephenson of Prescott Valley likes getting away to places where her family can unplug. She has rented RVs through the years for an annual family reunion that is off the grid. “It’s something that is relaxing, and I enjoy being with family and friends. It’s a little bit of work, but it’s fun, too,” she said.
“The RV is pretty simple to rent and operate,” said Stephenson, who rents from Southwest RV Adventures. “Renting with Marc is easy-peasy. We established a relationship, and it has been easy since. He is customer-service focused: you can rent online or call if you need to. Marc goes through all of the ins and outs to make sure that I’m comfortable. It’s that attention to detail and thoroughness that is appreciated.” QCBN
Stacey Wittig, QCBN