The recent roller coaster ride in fuel costs has failed to deter recreational vehicle enthusiasts from enjoying private campgrounds and RV resorts in Texas, according to a recent online survey by the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).
The survey, conducted in October, found that 82 percent of RV enthusiasts planned to use their RVs this fall at least as much as they did last year at this time.
“The economic downturn and the turbulence we’ve experience with fuel costs are not discouraging people from enjoying the RV lifestyle,” said Brian Schaeffer, TACO’s executive director. However, RV enthusiasts are taking shorter trips and they are camping closer to home, he said.
The October survey, conducted through www.texascampgrounds.com, generated 586 responses, Schaeffer said. He said 46 percent of respondents said they planned to use their RV this fall as much as they did last year, while another 36 percent said they planned to use their vehicle even more than last year at this time. Eighteen percent of respondents said they planned to use their RV less frequently this fall.
Several Texas campgrounds that cater to winter visitors are already booked up for the 2008-2009 winter camping season, and many others are filling up quickly, according to TACO.
“Winter reservations for campgrounds and RV resorts in Texas are as strong as they’ve ever been,” said Schaeffer. He said Canadians, in particular, are flocking to the Lone Star State in record numbers, largely because of the relative strength of the Canadian dollar and because of the relatively low cost of spending the winter in Texas parks as opposed to parks in other pricier Sunbelt destinations, such as Florida and California.
“Ten years ago,” Schaeffer said, “we’d send four or five Texas RV Travel & Camping Guides a month to people in Canada. But these days, we send 30 or 40 a week.”
Some parks are already booked up for the winter. “We stopped taking reservations two months ago,” said Mac McLaughlin, co-owner of the 129-site Hatch RV Park in Corpus Christi, adding that his park continues to see large numbers of Canadians. “We had four times as many Canadians last year as the year before,” he said.
McLaughlin said about 20 percent of his winter visitors arrive just after Thanksgiving, although he’s already had “about eight or nine” show up at his park unexpectedly. He said the remaining 80 percent of his winter visitors will arrive at his park just after Christmas. “A lot of Winter Texans like to spend Christmas at home,” he said.
While some Winter Texans go to the same parks every year, others move about the Sunbelt more freely. “They go to Florida one, and Texas the next and California after that. But they always come back to Texas because we’re a better a deal,” he said, adding, “Texas has a pricing advantage and our winter weather is just as good as theirs.”
In fact, retirees from northern Texas and surrounding states, including Oklahoma and New Mexico, think south Texas is a good deal, too. Visitors from these locations account for 50 percent of Hatch RV Park’s winter business.Other Texas RV parks also say their bookings look strong for the upcoming winter season.
“Our monthly reservations look pretty good for the season,” said Don Temple, owner of 202-site Guadalupe River RV Resort in Kerrville. “We continue to get the unexpected, which is drop ins. We had several people come in this week that want to stay two, three or four months that we didn’t know anything about.”
Bryan Kastleman, owner of Hill Country RV Resort in New Braunfels, said his winter business is looking strong, too, though he still has a few sites yet to fill. “We’ve got a lot of reservations,” he said. “We’re planning on a really strong winter.”
Not every park is seeing strong business, however. Doug Shearer, owner of the 95-site Parkview Riverside RV Park in Rio Frio, said his winter bookings are down slightly from last year. “We were off in October and our advance reservations for November and December are down. But you can’t go by that. I had a surprise guest show up today without a reservation and he wants to spend the winter here.” Shearer added that his winter business has generally increased 10 or 20 percent each year since he opened the park in March of 2001.
The Texas Association of Campground Owners markets more than 400 private campgrounds and RV resorts through TexasCampgrounds.com, which shows up in Google searches as people search for campgrounds in Texas.
About 90 percent of the visitors to TexasCampgrounds.com request a free copy of the 2008 Texas RV Travel & Camping Guide, a request for which also entitles them to participate in the association’s quarterly drawing for $250 worth of free gasoline.
For campground sources, statistics and other information about camping trends in Texas, visit TexasCampgrounds.com.