RV shipments, which are forecasted to reach record highs in 2021, are not the only numbers going up this year. The places for consumers to enjoy their RVs are also increasing.
There is a tremendous amount of new RV resort development and RV park expansions taking place in Florida, and throughout the Southeast. This was underway before the pandemic, but the pace of new development and park expansions and improvements is intensifying.
And it is not just a regional trend. The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) estimates that more than 53,000 new RV sites will be built across the country this year. An estimate based on a survey of 516 campground and RV park operators throughout the U.S.
According to Bobby Cornwell, Executive Director and CEO of the Florida and Alabama Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, 16 RV parks or resorts, mostly in Central Florida, have either just opened or are under construction. The result of these new and expanded parks will be to add about 5,000 new RV sites to Florida’s campsite inventory this year and next.
There are another 20-plus RV parks across the state that are collectively adding over 2,000 RV sites, bringing a total of 7,000 new RV sites available in Florida by the end of 2022.
“The demand is overwhelming,” said Tristan Farrell, president of Sunlight RV Resorts, the largest developer of brand-new RV parks in the US, including the Resort at Canopy Oaks in Lake Wales, Florida. “We are taking between 300-500 reservations per week -- most of which are for 8-12 months in advance. People are booking not based on what they see on-site or online, but on what they know is coming. They want to have their spot lined up!”
Canopy Oaks, which is on its way to becoming the largest new RV resort in the country, opened in December with 411 sites, but it will expand to 1,000 sites over the next two to three years. Park amenities include several lakes; a tiki bar; a deli that serves sandwiches, pizza, and salads; a coffee shop and ice cream parlor; a country store; and a hair salon and spa.
Additionally, Sunlight RV Resorts is developing four other RV resorts in Florida, including:
- Champions Run RV Resort in Ocala, which will open in January 2022 with 492 sites, will feature a full-service tiki bar, a large swimming pool and hot tub, a full fitness center, and pickleball courts.
- Palm Breeze RV Resort in Punta Gorda is a 439-site RV resort that is expected to open in the summer of 2022. Amenities will include a full-service tiki bar, a large swimming pool and hot tub, a full fitness center, and pickleball courts.
- Sebring Square RV Resort in Sebring is expected to open in January 2022 with 215 RV sites and feature a full-service tiki bar, a large swimming pool and hot top, a full fitness center, and pickleball courts.
- Rum Runner Luxury RV Resort in Sebring, which will open in Fall 2022 will have 120 RV sites, a full-service tiki bar, a large swimming pool and hot tub, a full fitness center, pickleball courts, and more.
While many Florida RV parks and resorts cater to 55+ snowbirds, there are a host of new RV resorts designed to appeal to families with children. These include:
- Splash RV Resort and Water Park in East Milton is a 62-acre, $20 million resort and water park, under construction near Pensacola Beach. It will initially feature approximately 351 RV sites, as well as 34-40 park model RV cottages and six furnished Conestoga wagons, two swimming pools, water slides and a lazy river, as well as bocce ball, pickleball, and basketball courts.
- Cabana Club RV Resort in Auburndale: This recently opened family-owned resort is halfway between Tampa and Orlando and has 155 RV sites and 60 park model RV rentals. It is designed to appeal to all ages with a zero-entry heated swimming pool, a nine-hole artificial turf putting course, a tiki hut and bar, a splash pad, and activities like basketball, corn hole, and yoga. The resort will also have separate dog parks for large and small dogs and a dog wash station. In 2022, Cabana Club RV Resort plans to add another 125 RV sites and another 65 park models, as well as six covered or shaded pickleball courts and multi-use sports courts.
In addition to expanding their RV resorts, park operators are also investing in higher end amenities, like zero-entry swimming pools and elegant clubhouses with resort-style swimming pools.
“RV parks are becoming destinations in themselves, much like regular resorts,” says Amir Hapaz, a 20-year veteran of the Florida RV park business and co-developer of Torrey Trails RV Resort in Palmetto, Florida. “Based on RV manufacturing numbers, for the foreseeable future, we’re going to continues seeing a need for more RV parks. There are already more RVs than sites in America.”
The following are some of the Florida RV resorts that are upgrading their amenities:
- The Waves RV Resort in Naples: Roughly $2 million in improvements are being made at this 383-site resort, the latest of which are renovation of a 7,000-square-foot clubhouse, new landscaping, and other cosmetic improvements throughout the resort. Last winter, the resort completed construction of a zero-entry resort style swimming pool and added four new pickleball courts, several new bocce ball courts, putting green, new obstacles for the dog park, new fire pits, and a tiki hut.
- Wildwood RV Village in Wildwood: This pet-friendly park, located along I-75 between Ocala and Tampa, opened 210 new sites in early 2020 and are adding another 159. Park amenities include a heated swimming pool with a sunning deck, a shaded dog park, and a picnic area.
When asked about the challenges facing RV park developers, Hapaz cited high land prices and local zoning issues.
“There’s a misconception among many local governments that RV parks are the same as trailer parks. We need to educate them, so they’ll see how RV parks contribute to the local tourism industry.”
According to Farrell, the most challenging thing has been keeping up with the demand of phone calls, emails, and people wanting more information about the resort details.