62 F
San Diego
Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Local Campgrounds Betting on Summer Road Trips

Since San Diego County gave campgrounds the green light to reopen a 100% capacity in early June, campsite operators say they have already seen an uptick in reservations, mostly from locals and road trippers.

Clint Bell, co-owner of Kampground Enterprises, Inc., which owns seven KOA campgrounds including the flagship headquarters in Chula Vista, said since opening at full capacity the second week of June, he started to see an increase in reservations for the remainder of the summer.

Regrowth and Rebirth

“Camping as a whole is starting to see this wonderful regrowth and rebirth of people being interested in not traveling 1,000 miles away but, instead, wanting to enjoy local opportunities,” he said. “We are starting to see a lot of folks that our now realizing how wonderful their own backyard can be, from the camping perspective, and how affordable traveling domestically can be.”

Since reopening at full capacity, Bell said the company, which had a revenue of roughly $5 million in 2019, has gone from being down 44% in reservations to just 8%, with that number decreasing daily.

Rescheduling, Not Cancelling

- Advertisement -

Ahmed Ait-Lahcen, general manager of Campland on the Bay, headquartered in Pacific Beach and with 568 campsites, said while he offered full refunds to tens of thousands of visitors and lost revenue in March, April and May, many guests have opted to reschedule their stay instead of going through with cancellations.

As of June 9, since reopening with no occupancy limitations on Memorial Day weekend, Ait-Lahcen said the company has been getting busier.

“Industry reports are showing that travelers these days are viewing RV camping as the most affordable and responsible way to travel,” he said. “RVs enable families to enjoy their own home on wheels, with a private bathroom, kitchen and sleeping arrangements. The resurgence we’re now seeing in reservations highlights the growing popularity of RV camping, especially at family-friendly destinations like Campland on the Bay. We remain optimistic as we see a lot of last-minute reservations flowing in.”

Uptick in Inquiries

Because of the overall fear of traditional travel methods during COVID, RV dealers across the country are seeing an uptick in inquiries, as per the RV Industry Association, the national trade association for RV makers and suppliers, headquartered in Washington D.C. Bloomberg reported in late May that Crestview RV, with two dealerships outside Austin, Texas, for example, saw an increase of 30% in floor traffic compared to last May.

The biggest group of interested buyers and renters are people who are looking to travel by RV for the first time because of the pandemic, according to Crestview RV president Mike Regan.

Steady Bookings

Jessica Geiszler is the marketing and public outreach manager at the County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation, which manages eight campgrounds throughout the county. She said while it is still too early to tell what numbers will be this summer, she has seen a surge in camping queries.

“We are still processing refunds while taking new reservations, (so) I don’t think we’ll have a clear picture of the full impact until later this summer,” she said. “However, I manage our web and social media sites, and I can share that there has been an uptick in visits to our camping pages and related inquiries via our Facebook page. People are excited to book their stay at a County Park, and we’ve seen steady bookings with every stage of reopening.”


Geiszler said the County’s campgrounds have been steadily filling its sites that are available the last few weeks. For instance, although Vallecito Campground and Agua Caliente County Park Campground don’t get reservations this time of year because of their desert location, she said both have been pretty much full so far. The reason for this is because there is so much demand for camping right now, Geiszler said.

The County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation garnered $3.5 million in revenue its last fiscal year, said Geiszler.

Safest Recreational Activity

Laura Koval, park director at Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve, which had a revenue of about $6.3 million in 2019, said she usually welcomes 750,000 visitors every year to the park and campground; aside from casinos, she said Santee Lakes is the biggest tourist attraction in East County.

And, while the RV park hasn’t reopened pools or spraygrounds yet, she said business is actually up over last year.

“People have been cooped up and RVs and boats are the safest COVID-19 recreational activity right now,” she said. “We expect it to normalize after more things open and ‘cabin fever’ dissipates.”


Featured Articles


Related Articles