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Camper Van Sales Double During COVID-19 Pandemic

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Camping road trip in the UK
The RVs are coming
Photo: Jack Antsey via CC

The RV industry is rushing to meet a surge in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic as Americans are seeking ways to get out of the house in a self-contained environment.

According to research from the RV Industry Association, 46 million Americans say they plan to take an RV trip in the next year, with sales rising among first-time buyers in particular.

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Erin Gilmore, director of operations for a company that converts commercial vans into camping-ready vehicles, claims business has doubled, with orders taking up to 12 months to complete instead of the usual four to six.

“I am hearing people say they want to stay out of public restrooms and be on the road in a self-contained vehicle they can sleep in to avoid hotels,” Gilmore told CBS News.

Other business owners have reported similar upticks in interest, some providing a sharp contrast to consumer attitudes just a few months ago. In the spring, Wade Jorgensen, who rents vans for about $150 per night, had lost every single reservation he had for the entire 2020 calendar. But since May, demand has been “through the roof,” and he’s booked out through September.

“Everyone is traveling but people don’t want to fly or stay in hotels,” Jorgensen said. “They want to self-isolate and be safe, and they can do that in a van or RV. I can’t build them as fast as I need them.”

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Meanwhile, Marcia Galvin, whose family owns the Normandy Farms Campground in Foxboro, Massachusetts, says they have seen an influx of first-time RV travelers who are still learning the ropes. “We are seeing a lot of newbies,” Galvin noted. “There are a lot more calls for help than usual.”

Since Memorial Day, when Normandy Farms reopened, the campground has been operating at full capacity and requires visitors to reserve slots at its four swimming pools. Though June business was down 10 percent compared to 2019, Galvin says she is “very optimistic” about the rest of the summer.

For RV manufacturers, the main concern now is to boost inventory, as inventory levels have been critically low following factory shutdowns from March to May. Should supply manage to match the demand, the RV industry could be in for a record year.