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RV sales expected to turn around

Camping
Feb. 03, 2013 @ 11:20 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Phil Abbott isn't ready to declare victory yet but after a couple stale years during the down economy, the RV sales manager feels like the RV business is hopefully out of the woods.

Or, into the woods, as it were.

Either way, economically when it comes to RV sales and camping visits at regional state parks, things are trending up for the 2013 camping season, said travel and tourism industry workers gathered Sunday during the final day of the three-day Huntington RV and Boat Show that filled the Big Sandy Superstore Arena.

"It's been pretty stagnant the past few years, but we did pretty good at the show," said Abbott, the sales manager at Burdette Camping Center, which along with Setzer's World of Camping helps anchor the Huntington show. "I think what people are doing is spending less but if it's under $20,000 people are still going to spend that. ... They may be spending less, and they may not have as much time off, but they still love spending time with the family and going to places like Cave Run."

While Abbott said Burdette is moving a lot of smaller units as well as doing big business in their service department as folks are hanging onto older units, the trend nationally projects continued RV growth in 2013.

According to a story on the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association website, RV shipments are projected to grow slightly in 2013 to 275,300 units.

That is up from 273,600 units in 2012, an increase of 8.4 percent from 2011.

That uptick in spending also could be felt at area state parks as well.

If inquiries about campsite application forms for reservable sites at West Virginia's state parks and forests is an indication, camping in 2013 could be a banner year, according to a recent state park press release.

While we are still in the heart of winter, West Virginia State Parks will begin processing mail-in reservation applications after Feb. 15.

Getting those reservations are important as many campgrounds fill up, especially during holiday seasons at the 29 state park areas that manage campgrounds.

"We can quickly change from a few dozen people to over 1,600 individuals seemingly overnight," said Matt Yeager at Beech Fork State Park in the release. "Families like to camp. It is one of those quintessential summer pastimes."

On March 15, campsite reservations for site occupancy dates from the Friday before Memorial Day to Labor Day are taken by phone and via mail. On April 1, walk-in reservations are processed. Applications and information for each park with reservable sites is located on www.wvstateparks.com, Lodging and Camping tab, "Campgrounds."

Across the river, two of the closest Kentucky State Parks to Huntington -- Carter Caves State Resort Park and Greenbo -- are also expecting an uptick in visitors as both have continued to make improvements and investments into the parks.

Marilyn Haney, who's worked at Carter Caves 31 years, said they have added a bunch of weekend events as well as a gemstone mining attraction to attract even more families to the park, which already has the area's only caves and horseback riding rentals.

Greenbo, which just underwent $1.1 million in campground improvements in the past few years, has added more sewer hook ups, two ADA-full service sites and some sites to accommodate horses and riders.

"The campground improvements are really paying off," said John Lott, who was at the show in Huntington representing Greenbo. "It's already tough to get camping on a holiday weekend and when you ask people what the draw is, it is that people feel like they can come there with the kids and feel safe and have fun."

While many booths at the RV and Boat Show represented a specific region or business such as the WV Pro River Outfitters, Cave Run Marina, Mardi Gras Casino and Resort and Foxfire KOA of Milton, the Ohio Travel Pavilion had a huge brochure-packed booth repping for tourism attractions in the five regions of Ohio.

Lisa Underwood, who will do nine travel shows this year with the Pavilion including the Ohio State Fair, said not only are they seeing a rise in interest in regional travel but they are also seeing families being more active -- seeking out info on Ohio's plethora of rail trails for bicycling, lakes and rivers for kayaking, and, of course, its bevy of ziplines that range from the brand new Tree Frog Canopy Tours in Loudonville to the Wilds Zipline Safari.

On Sunday, Underwood was talking to folks about some of the places in the Buckeye State they may not know about.

"Everybody knows about the Columbus Zoo or Cedar Point, but it's fun to help people find the places they haven't been, those hidden gems," Underwood said. "We've found a lot of people here know about a lot of things along the river, but we are trying to get them further in and take them into the heart of Ohio."

Whether it's a bus trip to Kings Island or taking the family in the RV just down the road to Beech Fork, Huntington RV and Boat Show organizer Jeff Scott said in talking with the 30 vendors at the show this weekend, he thinks many folks have gotten hooked on exploring the wonders near home.

"The staycation may have been something born out of the tough economy, but now that it is picking up, people wonder if they really do want to fly to some far off place and whether they want that hassle," Scott said. "I think the concept of the staycations and of people staying close within driving distance to vacation is here to stay."

Follow H-D reporter Dave Lavender on Facebook or Twitter @DaveLavenderHD.

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