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Opinion: The future of RV rallies

Opinion: The future of RV rallies

By Jeannine Patané
Founder, RV Compass

Millennial, Millennial, Millennial! Hitch up and hold on to your seat, it’s going to be an activity-filled ride. With Millennials in the vista of camping, wheels are rolling to the reinvented rally.

This is not rocket science — only event planning — but the Millennial is now dictating the atmosphere and quality experience in RV recreation.

Addressing some of the distinguishing camper demographics of the 2016 Topline North American Camping Report, ethnicity is now almost a non-issue compared to older age groups, and campgrounds are chosen more based on atmosphere than location. In reference to the younger generations, it was recorded that they heavily rely on social activity and spending time with others when they recreate. It sounds like a perfect group to rally.

Baby Boomers have been rallying for decades, but over time, their events have often become more political than fun. As Aristotle pointed out, man is by nature a political animal. Gatherings are not exempt from this.

All too often, rallies have been organized by committees, chapters and too many chefs in the kitchen trying to make another potluck happen. If you change your RV brand, don’t return to the rally. It’s the same ‘ole dance. However, there is a tectonic shift happening underneath this complacency, and it already shook up some of the larger, established events.

One event that has fallen off the map is called, “The Rally,” sponsored by Camping World/Good Sam Club. They self-proclaim it the “Greatest RV Rally in the World!” Sounds like a giant carnival more than a gathering of like-minded folks.

According to their latest rally news online, the last post was over two years ago in Jan. 30, 2015, announcing that year’s Phoenix Rally. The website’s home page spun a 2016 rally opt-out to celebrate Camping World/Good Sam Club’s 50th Anniversary at a store near you, and instead of a future rally, they advertised a super RV show in the beginning of 2017.

Like an antiquated circus show, “The Rally” folded up its tents and left town with no explanation. Why didn’t the “Greatest RV Rally in the World!” draw the massive numbers of these record breaking RV sales? At first guess, it was designed too large, complicated, and overly commercial for a camper convergence. The newest RV owner demographic in their smaller travel trailers weren’t even considered.

The future of RVing will continue to thrive and the younger demographics are taking the lead to make the viability continue for the industry. This shift is probably lastly reflected at the beginning of the manufacturing line, with the reinvention movement first displayed in the owner periphery through RV lifestyle support like clubs and rallies. It’s a grassroots effort trickling up to the manufacturing design.

Take the Escapees RV Club for example. The GenXers have already embraced what the generation before them have achieved. Building upon that, the Xscapers came into fruition as a subsidiary to the parent Escapees RV Club.

Xscapers is a support network geared toward a new generation of RVers who have not yet retired and who have already, or are aspiring to, hit the road pursuing a full-time or part-time nomadic lifestyle. It’s not just the demographics of age; technology clearly plays a large role in the RV lifestyle now.

Niche rallies have already hit cult-like fever. The vintage trailer community has developed an almost mainstream course around taking their rescued and restored trailers to rallies. Sisters on the Fly are thousands of members strong and women-only campouts are ever growing in popularity.

We rally to be with like-minded people, and that can happen annually or be a one-time anomaly. We’re making the rendezvous relatable to our interests now, and the brand of camper one owns is not an issue.

Independent rally organizers have recognized the value of the event to both the RV industry and owners, and they’re molding these events to suit all. Rallies offer not only a social setting, but also fertile ground for sharing knowledge. Each time a rally occurs our RV community should strengthen.

Millennials are a very social group, so it would be natural that they’ll get hooked on rallies. The earlier someone becomes engaged in an activity, the better chance they will continue the activity throughout their life.

There is no formula or committee structure to have fun with your RV community. The younger generations have learned how to rally, and tossing the Crockpot potluck off the schedule isn’t breaking the rules. Or it might be, but we don’t care. In fact, any activity that we’d enjoy engaging in with others can be planned. If we can modify and customize our RV, we can write our own rally.

The RV industry recognizes the demographic shift in RV purchasing and the changed attitude in lifestyle use. It not only affects manufacturing, marketing and sales, but how the RVs are being used afterwards and the end-user communication. Campgrounds can attest to this.

Toby O’Rourke, chief franchise operations officer for KOA said, “The Millennials are going to be very focused on quality. As an industry we have to continue to modernize our parks. We have to have recreation in our parks, we have to have quality sites. Millennials are demanding excellence and they want quality.”

Although Millennials expect excellence and quality from the campground atmosphere, campground management doesn’t need to reinvent their facility for this new demographic group. Simple adjustments can make campgrounds group friendly. There is no need to install a rock-climbing wall over a pool. Mind you, a campground is not a cruise ship, nor do we want to pay cruise ship prices for nightly camping.

It comes down to providing basic amenities, and doing it with excellence. That will attract large, social groups. Work with rally coordinators, as they are the outside sales representatives for your campground. Accommodate the group size, and maximize opportunity for social interaction.

Give groups a gratis, large sheltered gathering point with a community fire pit, clean, hot showers and robust Wi-Fi to share the awesome experience. The rest is happy camping.

Jeannine Patané is the founder of RV Compass, a company that promotes and manages RV rallies. As a full-timer in a 13-foot travel trailer, she also serves the coordinator of Eggshells in The Outer Banks, a rally for tiny travel trailer RV owners that takes place in North Carolina in October. She can be reached at

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  1. I’ve been thinking about this very situation for some time and as I travel to more remote locations am finding that boondocking sites without facilities and out of cellular range are virtually empty. My wife and I have taken to the habit of searching out just such places for the peace and serenity and don’t miss the large boxes where people don’t spend much time outside and run generators to stay operational. The comments above resonate with me as right on are where the next generation of RV’ers to be in the future would likely place specific services over others. Internet, casual dining, outstanding natural sites ( for the facebook post), and social meeting places to name a few. The parks could take a cue from the hotel industry that is creating friendly inviting shared eating and drinking space where they once had a separate dining room and bar. A shared counter with power and meal service. In the camping environment the creating of gathering places where folks might cook, BBQ, clean up and have time around a shared fire may be attractive.
    There is another trend I’m noticing in the big city of hi tech workers and high housing prices and that is the lack of space to store the gear to enjoy outdoor pursuits. The techies I see have money but no garage or parking place to prepare and clean up after a trip. Quality is in and a check of RV’s for sale in the Seattle area has a large amount of 30 plus foot class A’s in the ads and very few small quality trailers as they get snapped up. As my AS Basecamp lasted one day online and was sold.
    It is hard to think of a person that likes their electronisc toys to be the best, latest and a statement about their taste and refinement going to an RV show and buying a cheaply made stick built white box. I would expect the quality small trailer will be the choice and the large rigs may be viewed as impractical.

    Retired Baby Boomer, Oliver TT on order

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