Employees at Prosser’s Wine Country RV Park knew 2018 would be a good year before camping season took off. Each March, the 10-acre park, which includes 125 RV sites and nine tent sites, hosts a spring opener to get people out on the road earlier in the season.
Park Manager Louann Rockney said spots at their 330 Merlot Drive location filled up fast those first few weeks—and business hasn’t slowed since.
“I definitely knew when the spring opener came along that it would be busy,” she said, adding that the RV shows she attends also were fuller than expected. “For how many people came to the booths, we knew it was going to be a busy year.”
On average, Rockney said the park stays 75 percent to 80 percent full, and that number climbs even higher during event weekends.
It’s a welcome change from just a decade ago when it was much quieter on the lot.
“Families are interested in traveling again,” she said. “They’re able to more now because of the economy.”
Back in 2008, that wasn’t the case, and the RV industry took a hit.
When discretionary spending slowed, Broadmoor RV’s John Ramsey scaled back on luxury RV inventory at the Pasco facility to weather the financial storm.
“He had the foresight to say, ‘We have to stay the status quo for a few years, and we saw a lot of other businesses—a lot of RV businesses—shut their doors,” said Debbie Hughes, Broadmoor RV administrative assistant.
Hughes said 11 years ago, if the company sold 30 RVs a month it was a banner month.
“If we sold over 45, we’d have a party,” she said with a laugh, adding that the company had 30 to 40 employees back then.
Today, there are more than 100 staff members at Broadmoor RV and they sell an average of 200 units per month.
“In June, we sold 226. It’s going to be a great year,” she said. “People are looking for a way to unplug, and RVing is a way to go someplace and only deal with outside as much as you want.”
As RV sales started to pick up a few years ago, Broadmoor RV added Jayco Inc., to their line—a company that specializes in manufacturing luxury RVs and campers. Customers can buy RVs with amenities that include a king-size bed, multiple bathrooms and even a fireplace.
“We also have a toy hauler on our lot that sleeps 12,” said Hughes, adding that there’s a product for every family size and need. “For the men, it’s the weight and haul-ability they’re looking at. For women, it’s, ‘Where are my kids going to sleep.’ ”
For Brian and Beth Ace of Kennewick, who spent about a year evaluating their purchase, fridge and seating space were the most important items on their must-have list.
“We hope to spend our time outdoors and are really looking for a home base for cooking, sleeping for the adults, and a spot to have our babies where crying is not disturbing those around us,” Brian said.
The couple decided to buy a gently used 2006 Mallard Travel Trailer for $7,000 and took their first trip to Idaho in mid-July.
“Now that we have the trailer, we have to squeeze a few more weekend trips in to locations closer,” he said. “We are hopeful this travel trailer will provide memories for years to come.”
“Families are really understanding how fast time goes by,” Hughes noted. “People say, ‘If I’m going to spend $5,000 to take my kids to Disneyland, why not spend that money and take my kids on adventures for several weekends?’ ”
Keith Bennett of Blue Dog RV—which has 11 locations throughout the Northwest, including Pasco and Kennewick—said RVs offer people a way to save on hotels, plane fares and other costs associated with vacationing. But he’s quick to note customers aren’t just looking at RVs as a means to travel.
“Many people are selling their homes and living in RVs now. The Tri-Cities has a large population of people who travel for work and an RV helps them be mobile,” Bennett said. “The RV lifestyle is a lot of things: camping, tailgating, traveling south as a snow bird to chase the sun and avoid the winter. (There’s also) family sports trips, dog shows and so much more.”
Blue Dog RV has a handful of locations throughout the Northwest, including Pasco and Kennewick. Bennett expects the new few years will see continued growth in the industry with new dealerships springing up. In fact, this summer alone, Big Dog RV added two new locations.
“It’s been a great year. We started two new stores—one is Redding (California) and one in Fife, Washington. Both of these locations started in 2018 and have parts and service facilities as well,” said Bennett, who encourages people considering an RV, camper or travel trailer to dive into their dream.
“Jump in. The water is fine. The Northwest has some of the most amazing campgrounds, beaches and mountain landscapes in the United States—so get out and enjoy your weekends, and do it in an RV,” he said.
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