There's no question that rising fuel prices have taken a bite out of the family budget. This is probably more true for RV owners across America who understand better than most how much fuel it takes to power the buggy down the highway.
The RV travel industry, including sales and service companies, campgrounds, government and private parks, and others, are concerned that oil prices, and the resulting spike in pump prices, may adversely affect the outlook for the 2006 summer travel season, and even beyond.
The question is simple: with higher gas prices at the pump this year, will RV owners choose to park the RV or take to the highway as usual? And what impact will that have on the industry?
"Most people think that as gas prices go up, RV use goes down," says Richard Coon, head of the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). "We haven't seen that happen. Owners and renters change their habits, but they don't stop going."
Other industry experts seem to agree. While RVers may be taking shorter trips and staying longer at campgrounds nearer home, few are going to give up their annual summer travel plans.
In a RVIA survey of about 700 RV owners, nearly two-thirds said they intended to use their RV more this summer than last, and nearly one-third planned to use it about the same amount. The survey also indicated that 37% of RV owners and renters said the cost of fuel would not affect their plans.
But in spite of these encouraging numbers, there will be some negative impact in the industry wide. For one, not that it will break anyone's heart, oil companies will experience less sales from an industry that makes a positive impact on fuel sales each year.
Also at risk of negative financial impact are RV parks and resorts who rely on percentage-of-capacity numbers to keep their heads above water. If RVers greatly decrease their park visits this summer, many of the smaller parks will be hard pressed to survive.
RV sales are also at threat because of higher fuel prices. But industry experts say that they are hard at work developing strategies to offset those impacts. Expect innovative sales programs in the near future which might include new buyer incentives like cash-back rebates, free fuel allowances and possibly lower finance interest rates.
Economists also speculate that negative impact may be countered somewhat by higher air fares, hotel costs and over all travel expenses. As conventional travel costs go up, the bargains of RVing remain an important issue for those who have been considering entering the RVing family.
Regardless whether you're traveling far or near this season, RVing still remains one of the best and most adventurous methods of getting away and on the road. Happy RVing!