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Campground industry add $2.2 billion to Calif., economy

Campground industry add $2.2 billion to Calif., economy

AUBURN, Calif. — The RV and campground industries accounted for $2.2 billion in direct economic output and 13,319 jobs in California in 2015, according to an economic report released today.

Nationally, the RV and campground industries provided $49.7 billion in direct economic output and 289,852 jobs last year, according to the report, which was prepared by Brooklyn, N.Y.-based John Dunham & Associates for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association.

The report was released this morning during a press conference in Washington, D.C.

“This report confirms what we’ve known all along: that the RV and campground industries are major contributors to the economy, both nationally and here in California,” said Debbie Sipe, executive director of the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, the Auburn-based trade association that represents more than 300 campgrounds across the Golden State.

But while the manufacture and sale of RVs generate considerable revenue and employment, Sipe said it’s the use of RVs over time that generates lasting economic benefits for the communities where campgrounds, RV parks and resorts are located.

Sipe noted a 2012 study by the Outdoor Industry Association, which found that spending in campgrounds and other travel related expenses is six times as high as their spending on camping gear, accessories and vehicles.

“People sometimes assume that the biggest economic impact is at the front end with the manufacture of the RV,” Sipe said. “But economic benefits continue to accrue over time as consumers use RVs for everything from weekend getaways to multi-week or multi-month vacations where they spend money not only on campgrounds, but for groceries, fuel and many other types of products and services as well as local attractions.”

Campgrounds also are diversifying their economic base with park model RV rentals and other types of rental accommodations, which can generate three to five times as much revenue as an RV site alone. This not only strengthens campgrounds’ economic foundation, but it enables them to introduce millions of people to camping and RVing.

“Some people will always be cabin campers or prefer to camp in a furnished safari tent, yurt, tipi or some other unique accommodation,” Sipe said. “But many people who spend time at a campground eventually become inspired to buy their own RV and travel across California and the country and that keeps our tourism economy growing.”

Sipe said California has a very strong and diversified tourism base, with its scenic beaches, mountains and deserts; its state and national parks; as well as its famous museums, historical sites and amusement parks.

California also attracts snowbirds from the Pacific Northwest and Canada, who spend their winters at campgrounds, RV parks and resorts at lower elevation parks all over the state.

Across California, campground, RV park and resort operators estimate that each guest spends anywhere from $28 to $44 per day in their local economies, not counting what they spend for their campsites or campground rental accommodations. But while these dollar amounts may seem low. They add up quickly when you consider that campgrounds can accommodate hundreds and even thousands of guests.

For example, at Pismo Coast Village RV Resort in Pismo Beach, visitors spend at least $13.1 million per year in restaurants, grocery stores, fueling stations and other businesses in Pismo Beach and other communities across San Luis Obispo County, according to Jay Jamison, general manager of the resort.

Jamison said he bases those figures on a conservative estimate by the city of Pismo Beach, which estimates that each visitor spends $28 per day while visiting the city. The figure does not include money spent on lodging or campsites.

When Jamison considers that his 400-site RV resort has an average of four people per site, and an average year round occupancy rate of 80 percent, that means they are spending close to $13.1 million in the local economy, not counting what they spend for their campsites.

Pismo Coast Village RV Resort is also a significant employer, employing up to 70 people in the summer, about half of whom work part time; and 58 during the winter months, when a smaller percentage works part time, Jamison said.

At Ventura Ranch KOA in Santa Paula, co-owner Scott Cory and his staff estimate that their guests spend $1.2 to $1.8 million each year in Ventura County, above and beyond what they spend at the 148-site campground.

That translates into $100 per 2.25 day stay, which is the average length of stay at the campground. Crunched even further, this means the average guest spends $44 a day in the local economy, not counting what they spend on campsites or lodging. Ventura Ranch KOA includes RV and tent sites as well as furnished Glamping tents, tipis and deluxe park model RVs, which look like cabins.

While the campground has 1,400 feet of zip lines, swimming pools, pedal car tracks and rock climbing walls, Cory said at least a fifth of the park’s guests leave the campground at some point during the stay to visit neighboring attractions, including the beaches at Ventura and Santa Barbara; Six Flags Magic Mountain or other theme parks; the Camarillo Premium Outlet Mall; the Ronald Reagan Presidential Museum; and Malibu.

“When the guest stays two nights or less, the guest spends the majority of their time at the campground. When the guest stays more than two nights they are likely to spend more time outside of the park,” Cory said.

Additional spending is generated by Ventura Ranch KOA staff, 85 percent of whom live in Ventura County. “During our peak summer camping season,” Cory said, “we will have approximately 12 full time and 10 part time employees.”

One of the most conservative RV park economic impact estimates comes from The Springs at Borrego RV Resort in Borrego Springs.

The 163-site park is open year round, but most of its business is concentrated during the winter months, when snowbirds from the Pacific Northwest and Canada come to the park. Still, a recent informal survey of snowbirds by park co-owner Daniel Wright found that his snowbird couples spend an average of $227.50 per week in the Borrego Springs economy, not counting what they spend at the RV resort or its golf course.

Based on these figures and his average year-round occupancy rate of 25 percent, Wright estimates that his guests spend at least $482,334 a year in the Borrego Springs economy, again, not counting what they spend at the resort.

The Springs at Borrego also provides jobs, with seven full time equivalent positions at the RV resort and eight full time equivalent positions at The Springs at Borrego Golf Course, Wright said.

Additional spending is generated by the campgrounds themselves and reflects the types of products and services they provide to their guests.

Alan Ginos, general manager of Casini Ranch Family Campground in Duncans Mills, said his park spends thousands of dollars each week at Costco, Walmart, Cash N Carry and other retailers for beer, wine, food and dairy products to stock the campground store. Casini Ranch also purchases RV, camping and household suppliers every week from local stores as well as national suppliers. The campground also purchases thousands of dollars worth of firewood from a local wood products company.

And while Casini Ranch has not estimated the amount of spending its guests do while they are at the park, Gino said the figures have to be significant given the sheer numbers of people who vacation at the campground.

“From Memorial Day to Labor Day, we average about 1,300 guests in the park on weekends and 300 to 600 during the week,” he said, adding, “They come from all over Northern California and beyond.”

Casini Ranch has 25 year-round employees and hires an additional 20 seasonal employees for about six months of the year.

For more comments, information and sources regarding the economic impact of California campgrounds, RV parks and resorts, contact Debbie Sipe, executive director of the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, at 530.885.1624.

The Auburn-based trade association markets campgrounds, RV parks and resorts through, its statewide travel planning website, and through its free campground directory, Camp California! The Campers Guide to California, which is available for free in print or in digital format online.

SOURCE: CalARVC press release

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About Darian Armer

Darian Armer is the assistant editor for RV Daily Report. She lives in Billings, Montana, where she enjoys spending time with her husband and three stepchildren. Introduced to the RV industry in 2012, she is happy to be writing for one of the greatest industries around.

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