Photo Credit: Andrey Armyagov / Shutterstock
The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for the travel and tourism industry as a whole. Through much of 2020, shutdowns and public health restrictions to limit the spread of the virus led many travelers to cancel or postpone trips. Relaxations on these restrictions, the release of vaccines, and declining cases early in 2021 brought back many travelers, but the emergence of the Delta variant last summer and Omicron this winter again scrambled travelers’ plans.
Despite the general difficulties of the travel industry over the last two years, one segment that has fared well throughout the pandemic is outdoor recreation like camping and RVing. Because these activities take place outside and social distancing is easier, the risks of COVID exposure are low, which makes them an appealing alternative to airports, hotels, restaurants, and other locations where risk can be higher. The Outdoor Industry Association estimated that 7.1 million more Americans participated in outdoor recreation in 2020 than in the year prior.
New interest in outdoor recreation has forced related businesses to quickly scale up to meet demand. One example comes from the RV market. In February 2020—just before the pandemic began—the RV industry shipped a total of 37,113 units, according to data from the RV Industry Association. That number dropped to just 7,197 amid COVID shutdowns in April 2020, but ever since, demand for RVs has exploded. In October 2021, monthly RV shipments totaled 57,971, an increase of 56% from immediately before the pandemic.