Alfred Boustany’s search for an RV for his family for weeks went like this: Find a new listing. Call. Too late. Already sold.
Weeks went by until he found one at a Camping World store in Orlando, Florida — a new 23-foot Coleman Lantern pull-behind camper — and he knew he had to move quickly. So quickly that he bought it first without letting his wife, Roya, know he found what they had been searching for.
Eight days later, it arrived in Lafayette.
“We had talked about it,” said Boustany, who along with his wife have two young children and a third on the way. “With the way these things were moving, I knew I had to pull the trigger or I would never get one. I went home and told her I bought a camper.”
Demand for RVs in the era of COVID-19 has surged across the country. Many Americans are skipping hotels and air travel for RV parks in this era of social distancing, and some experts say the demand is so great that RV parks can’t get built fast enough.
Billeaud Companies is hoping help meet that need. Company reps and officials with the City of Broussard and the Broussard Chamber of Commerce broke ground on an RV park Wednesday that will feature 53 full-service sites that could be available to RVers by the end of the year.
Parkside RV Park will be located just outside the entrance of the Broussard Sports Complex at St. Julien Park. The location is ideal for accommodating families attending events there, Billeaud CEO Steven Hebert said, along with a solid investment amid the growth in the RV industry.
“Post-virus, it’s exploded like everything else,” Hebert said. “You can’t find an RV. You can’t find a boat. You can’t find a bicycle. It’s not only inexpensive but it’s also a way for you and your family to get away and not have to be around a bunch of people in the middle of a pandemic.”
Much of that surge in interest has come from millennials, Hebert noted, including those with young children. A report from the RV Industry Association, the number of younger first-time buyers continues to rise while the data overall shows an increase in the industry.
Wholesale shipments tracked by the industry in June were the highest in almost two years and a 10% bump over a year ago. Towable RVs totals just under 37,500, up 13% from a year ago.
That demand may not let up, according to survey of prospective travelers in North American Camping Report sponsored by the Kampgrounds of America. It found that:
- 46% want to camp as a way spend time outdoors after staying home for so long during the pandemic
- 41% see camping as an affordable way to travel.
- 37% find it easier amid social distancing guidelines.
The result has been a shortage in sites for today’s RVers, which require more space than at sites built decades ago, said Homer Staves, a Montana-based consultant who worked on the Broussard project. The industry has also seen the rise of luxury camping, or glamping, that has also become popular.
“Our industry is really segmented into three parts — manufacturers, dealers and campgrounds,” Staves said. “Manufacturers and dealers are crying all the time that there’s not enough campsites and that it hurts sales. There’s pressure to build more campgrounds and expand existing campgrounds. The return on investments are usually pretty good for campgrounds.”
The Broussard campground, Hebert noted, will not be on the caliber of the Cajun Palms resort campground in Henderson but will feature some more modern amenities, which will feature long level, full service sites with high speed Wi-Fi connections, a full-service bath house with five family-style bathrooms.
It will be similar to the RV park located near the Youngsville sports complex, both of which can cater to families visiting the complex.
“Ours is more of a destination park,” Hebert said. “A lot of our customers will be with their families at the sports complex. Hopefully it’s going to keep people attending the events in the Broussard economy instead of staying in Lafayette or elsewhere.”
Boustany said his family has already taken trips to Indian Creek campground near Alexandria and last weekend to Palmetto Island State Park in Vermilion Parish. If you want a nice spot on the water, he advised, it’s a safe bet to book the spot two months in advance. An RV park near Destin, Florida, is booked through November.
And if you’re trying to buy an RV? That might be difficult, as well.
“My parents are trying to get one, and we went to Primeaux RV,” he said. “A guy I went to high school with is selling them. It was to the point where he only had limited inventory to show us based on what my parents wanted. He had like two to show us. They’re flying off the lot.”