DECATUR, Ala — As travel restrictions became more common during the pandemic, more people decided to take things to the streets and the great outdoors.
We saw the rise of the ‘road trip’ and the RV industry couldn’t be happier with the change.
Our Sydney Stallworth checked in with one dealership near Decatur.
During the pandemic, travel has looked a lot different. But, the need to get out and see something new still persists. Some people decided to buckle up and hit the road in an RV and the industry has seen some big changes over the past year.
We met with Mark Woltjen, the General Manager at Rocket RV, a dealership off of HWY 20 near Decatur. He tells our reporter, “We’re probably looking at a 40 to 50 percent growth in a year-- from 2020 to 2021.”
Woltjen says with the spike in demand, it’s been tough to maintain inventory. He adds, “We usually like to carry about 175 pieces of inventory so you can look around and we can readily supply you. Right now, I’m at about 40. You know, a lot of people say ‘Isn’t that great?’. But, I wish I had 175, so that way I know I can meet these people’s needs.”
Woltjen says his team didn’t know if the industry would survive the pandemic back in 2020. But, business is booming. He tells our reporter, “Everything that we didn’t think it would be is what happened.”
Buyers might be looking for American favorites, like the iconic Airstream. But those are becoming tough to come by, and backorder is becoming the new normal. Woltjen tells us, “If you order an airstream right now. You might see it in the year 2021. It might be the year 2022.”
Rocket RV only had two Airstream units left on the lot for sale at the time of our visit. The spike in demand could be a result of more people rethinking their 'typical' vacation spots. Woltjen says, “Instead of going to a hotel and casino, they’re going out into the state parks. They’re going out into the state parks. They’re going out into the national forests. Next week, I’m traveling up to South Dakota in an RV.”
The demographic of buyers is also shifting! More young people are looking to sign the dotted line for RV’s and campers than the industry has seen in decades. We asked Mark Woltjen what the team is seeing at Rocket RV. He says, “The newer generation-- the 18 to 35 is the largest growth segment that we see.”
According to a survey by Outdoorsy, the number of millennials buying RVs shot up 70 percent from 2019 to 2020.
73% of millennials both this and last year reported they were "likely to take an RV trip in the future."