DETROIT—Working and learning virtually aren't just necessities during the pandemic—they're newfound abilities that have opened up travel opportunities for families that weren't always possible before.
That often means traveling in RVs. Along with being freed from proximity to offices and schools, families are attracted to the ability to control who and what enters an RV, limiting potential exposure to the coronavirus.
"RVs are tailor-made for a socially distanced vacation, and many travelers discovered the appeal of RVs this year," RVshare CEO Jon Gray said in a report in December.
An RV allows people to travel with their own beds, bathrooms and kitchens, which can provide a sense of security when it comes to their health.
The pandemic has brought more first-time RV buyers to the market. In previous years, first-time buyers made up 25 percent of the market; in 2020, that number was 55 percent, according to the report.
Outdoorsy, an online marketplace that connects RV owners with potential renters, said 90 percent of September bookings were made by first-time renters. Not only are renters benefiting from travel experiences, owners are making more money. According to RVshare, 75 percent of RV owners garnered more rental income in 2020 than in 2019.
"The owners of those RVs have capitalized on the ability to earn money from an asset that typically is only being used a few weeks out of the year, many of which are paying off their vehicles entirely," Gray said.
It's a remarkable turn from the pandemic-caused uncertainty in the RV industry early in 2020. RV production came to a screeching halt as COVID-19 swept the nation. But when production restarted in May after a nearly two-month shutdown, demand was there. A study from the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association indicates shipments surged in June and consistently outpaced 2019 figures. The industry recorded 47,326 shipments in October, a 21 percent increase year over year and the second-highest October on record.
That's in contrast to the spring, where just 7,197 vehicles were shipped in April compared with 40,243 in April 2019; in May, there were 27,999 shipments compared with 39,724 in May 2019.
"In response to the pandemic and people's desire to have the freedom to travel while also controlling their environment, the RV industry came roaring back, making up nearly that entire deficit in less than six months," Craig Kirby, the association's president, said in a written statement.
As of Nov. 24, the RV industry was down 0.4 percent from the same period in 2019, with 347,517 vehicles shipped.
"Right now, we are very happy to be even with where we were," said association spokeswoman Monika Geraci.