For many outdoor enthusiasts, the sights and sounds of a good camping trip are nostalgic and universal: a crackling campfire, the smell of woodsmoke and roasting marshmallows, the sense of being disconnected from stress and surrounded by nature. The whole experience of camping may as well be an antidote specifically designed to counteract the maladies of modern life – whether it be technology, current events, a hectic schedule, a sedentary lifestyle, or all of the above; camping offers an opportunity to disconnect from the bad and reconnect with the good. As life gets ever more stressful, it is no surprise that camping is rising in popularity in the United States. According to the 2019 North American Camping Report, the number of camper households in the U.S. has increased by 7 million since 2014, and the percentage who camp three or more times annually has increased by 72%.¹
Likewise, the RV industry has grown significantly over the past decade, contributing a $50 billion annual economic impact in the U.S. alone.² Here at RVi we have noticed a corresponding uptick in RV resort development and are excited to be involved in this growing market sector. Since 2016 we have provided planning & landscape architecture services for multiple clients for more than two dozen RV Resort Communities. These efforts have taken us from the Carolina Coast to the Cascade Mountains and numerous places in between.
Our approach to designing RV Resorts is intimately intertwined with our firm’s purpose – to inspire people to be outside and engage in the community around them. With creative planning and design, these destinations have the opportunity to connect people with nature and with one another in a way that few other vacation options can offer. The following four ingredients are important to consider when developing successful destination RV Resorts.
As with most leisure activities, location is of utmost importance when it comes to developing successful RV resorts. Proximity to mountains, rivers, lakes, the ocean, and scenic views are important considerations, as these serve as natural amenities that draw outdoor enthusiasts and offer built-in activities such as fishing, hiking, kayaking, boating, and more. Additionally, and somewhat counterintuitively, proximity to major highways is also desirable. The goal is to be accessible enough for these large vehicles to access conveniently along their drive, but also tucked away enough to provide a feeling of respite from the urban environment.
The user’s experience of locating and navigating an RV resort can have a meaningful impact on sales and repeat business. We work with our clients on the thoughtful placement of on- and off-site signage to attract and guide campers to the resort. Additionally, we work to create a sense of arrival for campers who are likely road-weary and eager to begin their outdoor adventure. Highlighting natural amenities, utilizing signage, and creating a calming experience is key. Of equal importance is efficiency in the check-in process, which involves providing multiple check-in options for campers who require varying levels of assistance from resort staff.
Finding the Right Amenity Mix
The development of creative built amenities that pair well with the site’s natural environment is also important. Successful amenities can run the gamut from simple to extravagant and can be scaled to meet the budget and vision for each individual development. Resort amenities can include clubhouses, fitness centers, playfields, playgrounds, general stores, hike and bike trails, ziplines, ropes courses, river rafting, snow sledding, and more.
Design with Community in Mind
There tends to be a certain cultural mindset that accompanies the camping world. Whether you’re driving in the comfort of a Prevost or towing a pop-up Terry trailer, people are friendly, eager to meet their neighbors, and generally willing to help one another out. As planners and designers, we facilitate this culture by creating resort communities that encourage a social interaction and a communal mindset. We design neighborhood amenities such as laundry, bathhouses, and dog parks to be centrally located in close proximity to camping sites, while integrated hike and bike trails connect campers to one another and to the larger network of activities and amenities the resort has to offer.
¹(2019). The 2019 North American Camping Report. Retrieved from http://koa.uberflip.com/i/1101994-2019-koa-north-american-camping-report
²(2019, August 9). 2019 RV Industry Statistics, Trends & Facts [Infographic]. Retrieved from https://www.thewanderingrv.com/rv-industry-statistics-trends-facts/