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by Marc Atchison

It appears the RV industry is sitting in the driver’s seat and ready to navigate the post-COVID-19 world much better than most travel sectors in Canada. In fact, the road ahead never looked better for Canada’s recreational vehicle industry as travellers opt for more staycations as pandemic paranoia persists.

Is there a better place to social distance than an RV park?

Even before the pandemic arrived, the popularity of RV vacations was on the rise in Canada. A 2018 national study for Go Rving Canada and RVDA Canada conducted by The Portage Group revealed that there are more than two million RVs on the road in Canada and that 15 per cent of all Canadian households now own an RV. Another industry report revealed that a million Canadians experienced their first RV trip in 2019 and that number grew expediently in 2020 as staycations became the norm at the height of COVID-19.

In the past five years, revenue in Canada’s RV industry has increased by 3.7 per cent and last year alone the sector contributed $3.6 billion to the nation’s tourism coffers.

Sales of RVs, especially big rigs that offer lots of space, have been steadily increasing over the past decade and in 2019 sales reached over $4 billion in Canada. That’s an average annual growth of 2.7 per cent between 2014 and 2019.

But while the cost of RVs has steadily risen, RV vacations are still seen as a cheaper alternative than hotel stays by most Canadians.

That was born out in a study conducted by the CBRE Hotels Advisory Group, which concluded that RV vacations, on average, are 62 per cent less expensive compared to other vacations.

We’re not talking Trailer Park Boys camping here, either. Over the past decade, RV sites have become more theme park in their appearance and now offer amenities usually reserved for 5-star resorts.

Some private camping sites, for instance, feature happy hours, restaurants, community dinners, evening programs, spas, full-service health clubs, beaches, level patios suited for big rigs, outdoor seating areas and clubhouses with pools and games rooms offering lots of electronic distractions. Some even offer shuttle services to nearby restaurants, attractions and casinos.

A recent Kampgrounds of America survey, based on 2,903 households in Canada and the U.S., revealed that since 2014 six million North American households have enjoyed an RV experience and those who take at least three camping trips a year has increased by 64 per cent over that period.

The Kampgrounds survey also revealed that Western Canada has the highest rate of RV ownership in North America – 68 per cent – followed by Eastern Canada at 60 per cent.

Interestingly, the Calgary-based Bucars Blog reveals that of those Canadians who went camping for the first time in 2019, 56 per cent were millennials, 25 per cent were gen X, 14 per cent baby boomers and 4 per cent were over 65. According to Go Rving Canada, 67 per cent of RV enthusiasts are under the age of 55.

Bucers Blog also reports the annual household income of RVers is $62,000, but 18 per cent earn in excess of $100,000 annually.

According to long-time RVers, 24 per cent say the most important thing to remember when picking a campground is the atmosphere it offers. Another 22 per cent says the location of the campground is the most important factor while 18 per cent look at the quality of the campsites and 12 per cent say campground amenities (power, water, etc.) should be top of mind. People looking for pet-friendly campgrounds account for 7 per cent of all RVers while just 3 per cent chose a campsite based on WiFi availability.

Camping, according to GO Rving Canada, is the dominant activity among 58 per cent of RVers, 23 per cent like visiting national and provincial parks, 23 per cent like hiking and backpacking, 18 per cent hit the beach, 14 per cent like sightseeing while the rest like to use their RV for visiting family and friends and getting closer to nature.

Oh, and if you think owning an RV is for men only, think again. While 57 per cent of RV owners are male, Go Rving Canada reports that 43 per cent of RV owners are women and the gap between the genders is closing rapidly.

Ladies and gentleman, start your engines – it’s time to go RVing.

Top 10 Primer

Okay, so I’m ready to shift into high gear and head out on the open road for my first RV experience. But there are important things to consider and Go Rving Canada has supplied us with a list of 10 things first-timers should know, like:

• Create a rental checklist. Some important things to keep in mind when renting an RV include insurance, license, deposit, reservations, cancellation policies, mileage and convenience packages.

• Know your budget. Whether you’re jumping in full-time for the season or looking for a weekend getaway, RVing is an affordable lifestyle that offers a range of price-points depending on what you’re looking to do. For example, a Class C motorhome may cost $1,000 per week, while a Travel Trailer is $500 per week.

• Check out the floorplans of the RVs before renting. It is often worth visiting the dealership prior to booking to see if it’s the right fit for you.

• Start small. If it is your first time, it’s best to keep it simple and get a feel for handling the rental before setting off coast to coast.

• Speak to your car insurance broker to see if you’re covered for RV rentals. You may need to arrange additional coverage from the rental company.

• Understand the rules and regulations. Check if pets are allowed at the campground if you want to bring your dog or look into regulations if you plan to cross the border.

• Ask the rental dealers which campgrounds they recommend. You can often get some great discounts.

• Ensure you book the require spaced needed. When making a campground reservation, make sure you know the size of your RV to ensure you have enough space for the unit.

• Pack beyond the essentials. Many rental companies pair the RV with accessories you will need for your trip. It’s important to figure out what exactly comes with your rental and to pack a little more. You never know what you may need!

• Ask for advice. Talk to your campground neighbours. If this is your first time RVing, there are tons of hacks seasoned campers can offer to make your experience easier.

For more information on RVing in Canada and North America, including a list of campgrounds, visit Go Rving at https://gorving.ca/ or the Canadian Camping and RV Council at https://ccrva.ca/.

Marc Atchison is the Editor-in-Chief of TraveLife magazine. http://www.travelife.ca/