Even President Donald Trump suggested he may ditch Air Force One for an RV trip to New York.
“I think I’m gonna buy an RV and travel in an RV with our first lady,” Trump said at a news conference Friday at the White House. “It’s great, people are traveling. And you know what? They’re traveling in the United States. And they’re also driving. And they’re building the trailers.”
Enthusiasts say the vehicles are thriving because of social distancing concerns. Air and train travel have become less appealing. With an RV, there’s no need to share a hotel elevator or airplane bathroom, and meals can be prepared inside the vehicle.
“You won’t likely get Covid from a pine tree,” said Randall Smalley, an executive at Cruise America, which rents RVs, and has seen calls and interest from customers nearly double from mid-April through Friday when compared with the same time period last year. Cruise America has also seen growth in one-way trips, as people may relocate for work or want to make a long trip without stopping at a hotel.
Jon Gray, CEO of RVShare, laid off 10% of his staff in March and furloughed 30% of his remaining employees. Business started to pick up in mid-April as states loosened travel restrictions. He’s since brought back all the furloughed workers, and business in the last week is more than double the same period last year. A competitor, Outdoorsy, said its bookings last week have grown 300% when compared with the same period a year ago.
RV dealers are reporting increased interest from first-time RV owners, according to the RV Industry Association. Some dealers are reporting May sales grew as much as 170% from the same time last year. Low gas prices also make RV trips appealing.
Seattle-based Cabana, an RV rental startup, offers customers the added benefit of a fully contactless experience. RVs can be reserved and picked up using the company’s app. Scott Kubly, Cabana’s founder, said he’s been surprised by how many people rent his camper vans for last-minute trips for a day or two of hikes.
“Demand is off the charts,” Kubly said.
Gray, the RV Share CEO, has surveyed customers and found they overwhelmingly want to stay away from crowds and near home.
“We give you an option for control,” Gray said. “If you pull into a campground and it feels overcrowded then you just go somewhere else.”