Shortly after the onset of coronavirus, it appeared that 2020 would be the year from hell for travel-industry companies — and for many, from hotels to group travel guides, it is proving to be just that.
But for a particular segment — namely, those companies that facilitate individuals getting out into uncrowded natural areas — this summer has instead proved to be an unexpected gold mine. Companies that sell RVs, rent multi-day camping vehicles and even plot hiking and biking courses off the beaten path are seeing booming interest and increased sales.
Escape Campervans, a national, Denver-based rental company with 12 locations in the U.S. and Canada, for example, shut down completely in April, had to furlough some staff and decided to delay by a year the opening of its 13th locations that was scheduled to debut in March. But since reopening in May, bookings at its Colorado site are up 800 percent year-over-over, and it’s offered three times as many web sessions to potential future customers, president Katie Key said.
“When coronavirus hit, we were like ‘This is going to be a disaster of a year.’ But then we realized we were positioned pretty well for basically the one type of trip people will take this year,’” said Key, noting she’s been able to hire back most of the staffers. “Those people might not have discovered us if there hadn’t been a pandemic, so there is a silver lining.”
As people have canceled flights and nixed planned trips to amusement parks or events that no longer are happening, they have become attracted to the idea of hitting the road to more nearby and more remote locations. This can offer social distancing with adventure — and for many of the folks switching up their plans, they want some way to travel efficiently and safely.
Recreational-vehicle sales were up 11 percent year-over-year in June and jumped 45 percent just from May to June, noted Monika Geraci, spokeswoman for the RV Industry Association. And while Geraci’s group represents manufacturers of the vehicles who ship them to dealers, she said she’s heard of some RV rental or sharing companies reporting 1,000 percent increases in business so far this summer.
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Photo credit: Thor Industries