Tourism Tanking. RV And Camper Companies Found Business Fighting COVID-19

Mar 27, 2020

Elise Ballard had just finished lunch and was gazing at the Pacific Ocean, enjoying the solitude of the craggy coastal bluffs of Mendocino, Calif. Soon, she and partner Jeff Fernald would be on Highway 1 again, continuing home to Seattle in a rental camper van they’ve dubbed the “mobile quarantine unit.”

“It’s so uncanny; it’s so strange,” Ballard said Monday. “We are seeing some of the most beautiful sites in the world — and they are vacant. It feels like one of the safest places to be.”

The couple’s journey in the Mercedes-Benz Metris began six days earlier, after their Los Angeles vacation was upended by the coronavirus outbreak. They didn’t want to risk flying home, and realized renting a car could put them in contact with many people, including those at hotels where they’d need to stay. But they could sleep in the Metris, which also has a stove, refrigerator and freezer.

So Ballard and Fernald extended their rental with Silver Lake-based Texino, a boutique camper van company with whom they’d already rented the vehicle for their vacation. They’re taking their time — Ballard said the trip could stretch into April — in part because they worry about returning to Seattle, a focal point of the pandemic.

“This van,” she said, “has become such a safe little bunker.”

As the coronavirus outbreak spreads, recreational-vehicle companies — those that rent or sell RVs, camper vans and motor coaches — are adapting to a veritable wartime economy. Operators said they’ve seen much of their business dry up, aside from travelers seeking to avoid airports. But some have turned to a secondary area, serving government and other large clients. In many cases they are providing RVs for key workers, such as medical personnel, who require lodging that keeps them away from home, where they could pick up COVID-19 or spread it to others.

Check out the full article from the LA Times here!