A Year In Review and What's New for 2022

a year in review and what’s new for 2022

By Scott Bahr

January 21, 2022

As a big thank you from all of us here at Cairn Consulting Group, we wanted to say thank you for all that you helped us accomplish in 2021 we are going to be recapping all the changes from last year and highlighting what is new to come in 2022. With all the big changes there will be some major changes and some not so apparent updates. and for the support in getting everything launched in 2021. Here is a year in review and what’s new for 2022.

Recap on 2021

This past year we saw a lot of ups and downs due to the impact of COVID, which comes as no surprise to anyone who works in pretty much any industry. Outdoor recreation in particular had a banner year in terms of participation, especially outdoor hospitality.

Spikes in COVID mid-summer created some concern initially, but providers of outdoor hospitality immediately saw the opportunity to extend the season, and our research was first to predict this upcoming change. Millions of campers and glampers took more of their trips well into the fall season at a rate unheard of in the past, driving many providers to stay open longer, to enhance their amenities, and importantly, to start planning early for 2022.

The number of participants had some ancillary impacts on the industry – some positive, some not so positive – which will be important to monitor into the next year. For example, with many of the front-country locations seeing record visitation, experienced outdoor rec enthusiasts took to less traveled areas, which in turn resulted in a bigger impact on these less-used areas.

The RV industry on the other hand has benefited greatly from this increased participation and desire to travel in comfort. RV shipments are breaking records, and RVers are finding locations to camp apart from the traditional locations such as campgrounds, with overlanding seeking record participation, as well as boondocking and staying at alternative locations (e.g., ski resorts, casinos).

A Year In Review - 2021

Providers have spent time this year developing their offerings, whether it’s an expansion of campsites at existing locations, developing new campgrounds, increases in glamping providers/options, and alternative camping locations. These changes are important to the industry in order to keep up with demand.

Overcrowding at some locations as well as concerns about COVID also resulted in some participants staying home, or looking for an alternative experience. We anticipate that with some of the changes mentioned above and declines in COVID infections, the industry will see these participants come back into the fold.

Campers and outdoor rec participants appear to be less likely in total to avoid participating in at least some type of outdoor recreation. Whether it’s an extended season for all activities (which provides opportunities for manufacturers and retailers to enhance their portfolios to account for these changes), to those who are seeking alternative experiences (again, opportunities for providers to capitalize on this desire to reach out in terms of their experiences), and more participation in what used to be the off-season. Download and see the KOA Monthly Camping Report for the number of participants.

Those who serve within the outdoor recreation sector have opportunities for growth and development, but it will be important to stay on top of consumer trends in terms of their behavior and preferences, including the look ahead. If this past year is any indication, those who embraced these changes will continue to thrive.

What’s New for 2022

Looking ahead to 2022, our early research suggests that there might be somewhat of a dampening effect from COVID during the early stages of the year, but much less so as the peak seasons approach. If last year was any indicator, we would anticipate that even if there is some slow down early in the year, many of those who changed plans will make up for it later in the year. Anecdotally, some locations have been booking reservations for camping over the past few months already and appear to continue at that pace.

Leisure travelers are accepting camping and especially glamping as an alternative to resort travel due to COVID. As long as COVID is hanging around, we can anticipate that outdoor hospitality will benefit from this spillover, given leisure travelers are unlikely to stay home and will still seek to participate in some type of travel – and camping/glamping offer that opportunity.

Based on high volumes of visitors, outdoor rec participants should plan on getting their trips in order early, especially if they are traveling to popular destinations. And those who do travel to these popular destinations should anticipate that there are going to be some restrictions on what they are allowed to do or areas they can visit. Fragile natural areas may impose restrictions, whether it’s traveling into these areas, or regulating the number of visitors.

Look for new locations to open up this year for camping/outdoor hospitality. Peer-to-peer listings will continue to grow as an asset, as well as smaller, boutique campgrounds, “pocket parks,” and private land holdings that open up to camping. Expect to see more specialty-based camping experiences that focus on specific types of activities or access to those activities. We also anticipate more glamping locations to open up this year as both leisure travelers and campers are looking for comfort-based accommodations.

What's New in 2022

RVing will continue to grow, though maybe not at the same pace, but will gain participants who are seeking a different type of RVing experience such as overlanding or other types of backcountry camping in an RV. Look for manufacturers to not only develop their portfolio to include more off-road models, the suppliers to develop the products that can be included in those activities (e.g., power suppliers, solar, water systems, climate control, etc.). Additionally, this year will result in more manufacturers of RVs developing their EV models, and hoping to get those to market as consumers are seeking this type of solution.

Consumers will be looking for products that have multiple uses for their different activities, which includes extended seasons, accessing different locations, and changing group dynamics of participants (i.e., less likely to camp in larger groups).

For those who are part of outdoor rec and outdoor hospitality, the outlook is bright as long as you stay on top of how outdoor enthusiasts are experiencing the outdoors, and the way they travel. Be prepared to respond to market changes, which we have seen can turn any industry on a dime. Reach out to consumers, ask them what they are looking for, ask them what would enhance their experiences. Reach out to suppliers and providers and ask them what they are seeing in their sector, and importantly, ask them how you can help.

Again, Happy New Year from everyone here at CCG!

Looking to get things done in the new year?

Set up a chat with the team and see how we can help build your next market strategy and leverage data so we can help illuminate, connect, and guide you through research.

Let us know what you think about a year in review and what’s new for 2022.

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