Convention and Visitors Bureau Announces that Area Campground Business Healthy Despite High Gas Prices

Convention and Visitors Bureau Announces that Area Campground Business Healthy Despite High Gas Prices
Price of Fuel Doesn't Deter RV Travelers or Campers

(Hagerstown, MD)- Despite the high cost of fuel, camping and RV-ing remain a favorite American pastime. RV and campground trade associations say 2008 appears to be just as busy as previous years, though with some variations that could be attributed to fuel prices. Washington County campgrounds report that occupancy was down just slightly from what it was last summer, and the fall outlook is strong with most weekends already sold out.
"The spring really scared us all because it started so slowly," said John Durham, owner of the Antietam/Hagerstown KOA. "We think the weather had a lot to do with it - it was a very cool, wet spring all over the Northeast. And the sticker price of gasoline had a lot do with it. It wasn't that people couldn't afford it -it was just the sticker shock at the beginning."
Though the warm weather season got off to a slow start, area campgrounds report having a solid middle of the summer. "July and August were just phenomenal," Durham said. "People stayed closer to home and they stayed longer. Midweek stays were up too."
Ron Vitkun of Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Camp-Resort made some marketing changes and added incentives to attract campers. "We took a little bit different approach than in years past," Vitkun said. "We knew people were still going to vacation but they were probably going to stay closer to home. We're very fortunate to have a huge population base with Washington and Baltimore and the surrounding areas to market to. I don't really see gas prices getting back to where they were," said Vitkun, "and I think people are always going to be sensitive to that."
Vitkun said that while overall occupancy is down at Yogi Bear, revenue is up. "Part of that is some things we did in terms of pricing and the shoulder seasons because we do a lot of special activities including the upcoming Halloween weekends." Vitkun reported that the Halloween weekends were nearly sold-out, with very strong bookings.
Both the KOA and Yogi Bear offer special Halloween themed weekends during the fall.
"We've had to add a sixth Halloween weekend because they book up so fast," Durham said. "We're into September now for Halloween weekends, so the fall outlook is good."
Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park offers a haunted trail that has become quite popular with the guests. "We get props from a company out of Columbus, Ohio - the Scare Factory," Vitkun said. "They are the same people who do a lot of the props for Hollywood, and they're known in the industry as having some of the best Halloween props out there."
Beyond the fall season Durham says the KOA usually gets some snowbird traffic - people going to Florida for the wintertime. "We generally do a lot of business, but we don't know what to expect," said Durham. "The dollar looks good for the Canadians so they may come down anyway."
According to the Go Camping America blog, using an RV to travel is still a good idea, even with high gas prices. "Once you start adding in your meals on the road, hotel rooms and airfare if you're flying, taking your RV is still an economical and practical means for travel," states a July 7, 2008 blog entry.
A recent survey taken by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association found that high fuel prices weren't stopping RV travelers, but often prompted searches for deals and in some cases, trips taken closer to home, said Kevin Broom, spokesman for the 550-member association. Also, nationally, the National Park Service reports that more than 1.1 million RVs visited National Park Service campgrounds through the first seven months of this year, the healthy number is according to preliminary figures. Kevin Broom said, "RVs are still an economical way to vacation because RV users save money on the motel and restaurant bills that are part of traveling by airline or car."
Local state parks in Washington County that offer camping opportunities have reported a very strong 2008, as well.
For more information about the Antietam/Hagerstown KOA, please go to www.hagerstownkoa.com. For additional information about Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Camp-Resort visit jellystonemaryland.com.
The Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau is a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization whose mission is to help attract visitors to Hagerstown and Washington County. The CVB helps to create vibrant growth for the local economy by promoting, developing, and expanding the local visitor industry. Washington County has several campgrounds, along with eight state parks, five national parks, and over thirty museums. For more information about Hagerstown-Washington County, see: www.marylandmemories.com.

This information was provided by the Hagerstown/Washington County Convention and Visitor's Bureau - www.marylandmemories.com