On the road: Camping industry sees uptick

May 10—LIMA — Traveling across the country can be accomplished by car or plane. Many Americans choose to travel with a recreational vehicle or RV. After COVID-19, the use of campers increased across the states. According to Sun Valley Campground owner Allison Williams, Americans began to bring out their campers as a safe way to travel and get outside.

Growing Trend

Retailer Reineke RV recognized the growing trend and opened a location in Lima just over 3 years ago. The store is located at 1280 N. Cable Road. General Manager Jamie Chalfin said business is good.

"After COVID, it was kind of the preferred way to travel for a while because people had their bed, amenities and they sterilized to their liking," Chalfin said. "The past year or two, most of those customers have stuck with it. There was a big influx of people buying during COVID. We wondered if it would stick or if it were a short-term thing — from what we're seeing, most of them have stuck with it because they've enjoyed it."

Chalfin also said returning customers often trade in for a different camper and purchase the RV they "really want."

"The majority of our customers use them for vacationing, not necessarily staying in them permanently and traveling all over," Chalfin said. "There is a small percentage that does. Most of our customers are families or grandparents who want to get away with the rest of their families."

Residential vs. transient

With the convenience of an RV or camper, residents have the opportunity to stay for a long or short period. Sun Valley Campground offers both contingent upon the needs of the traveler.

"We are a stepping stone for people," Williams said. "Sometimes they are just starting and need a place to stay. We are also on the back end where people decide to sell their homes and downsize. Often, they are retired and do not want the upkeep of a traditional home."

Williams said the campground also sees community members who are "transient" and simply in town for work.

"We have people who come in to work and stay with us," Williams said. "While they are in the area for their contract, they live in a camper full-time for nine months out of the year. We are a part of that trend as well. We see contractors work at the refinery, P&G and the solar farm for six to 24 months until a project is complete. They travel the country that way."

Each campground has different amenities. Ottawa Metro Park Campground provides short-term stays for those traveling. Sun Valley Campground is open year-round.

"We are set up for a neighborhood atmosphere," Williams said. "We have long-term lease agreements and treat them just like an apartment. We run a background check and require a security deposit."

Additional places to stay

For those who travel full-time, some restaurants and businesses open their parking lots for customers to stay overnight. Walmart, Sam's Club and Cracker Barrel are just a few of the many across the nation. According to the Roadtrippers website, customers must call a location first because each has different rules.

"We stay (in our camper) at Walmart off and on in different places," Frank Hostetler said at the Allen County Solar Eclipse. "Walmarts are so nice about it. We go on three-day trips to Holmes County or in Michigan."

Reach Precious Grundy at 567-242-0351.