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The recreational vehicle (RV) industry, an important component in the Rio Grande Valley economy, is changing. Born on the wings of America's need to "hit the highway in search of adventure and recreation" back in the 1950s, the industry has undergone a number of changes since Airstream first introduced it's stainless steel travel trailer to a generation of Americans looking for a way to "discover America".

Karen Redfern of GoRVing.com and Alan Burke with the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) say the industry is healthy and growing with new demographics that are expressing interest in the sport of RVing.

"Awareness of the recreational vehicle industry increased by 6% last year," reports Burke. "And one of the fastest growing segments of the industry is family RVing. We're seeing steady and healthy growth of RVing interest at the family level, where the kids and Mom and Dad can travel together and experience some of the truly beautiful sites America has to offer -- like their parents did."

Burke says the heightened interest in family RVing is a return to the golden days of RVing when families would load up the car, hook up the Airstream and head out to destinations like Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon.

"Someone once said if you want to really see America, you have to walk, ride a horse or drive a car. And no one has the time to do the first two, so its not surprising that American families are returning to their travel roots and taking to the highways and backroads," adds Redfern.

This new generation of "Route 66" vacationers is a promising sector of RV enthusiasts and represent new hope within the RV industry. According to the GoRVing.com Web site, the latest Communications Planning Study, conducted by Harris Interactive, yielded new data about the demographics and psychographics of RV-buyer prospects and the best messages to reach them. Based on study findings, the RV industry is targeting messages to three well-defined, promising prospect segments.

Members of the first segment, “The Family that Plays Together,” typically are between the ages 35 and 49 and have at least one child. Their average household income is $85,000. Of the RV prospect segments, this group is more likely to include Hispanic consumers.

The Family that Plays Together prospects rate spending time bonding and finding learning opportunities as important. Members of this group are receptive to messages emphasizing the convenience and flexibility of RVing with children.

The second segment, “The Get Up and Go Crowd,” finds RVs appealing for weekend outings with their “toys” – motorcycles, ATVs, boats, etc. Members of this category are enthusiastic about motor sports, sporting events and saving money on travel. Their average household income is $81,800. More than half of this group are between 35 and 49 years old, but the majority have no children.

Of the three prospect segments, The Get Up and Go Crowd is more likely to include African Americans and consider RV travel a good value. This segment is likely to respond to messages that connect RVs with motorized recreation and sporting events and emphasize the affordability of RV travel.

Members of the third category, “Nature Lovers,” enjoy the peace and quiet of scenic destinations off the beaten path. Respondents in this category rate camping in comfort, staying fit and strengthening relationships as important. They express concern about RV driving and have an average household income of $93,600.

Of the prospect groups, Nature Lovers are the oldest with 35 percent between the ages of 50 and 64. Also, they are typically empty-nesters. They’d be likely to appreciate the advantages of having a home on wheels in remote areas where lodgings and restaurants are hard to find.

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