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Pandemic driving Big Bend camping business

Social distancing drives people outdoors
Posted at 7:23 PM, May 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-19 19:23:51-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Camping trends have gone up considerably since the start of the pandemic.

New research from Kampgrounds of America or KOA shows the number of first-time campers in the U.S. in 2020 was five times what it was in 2019.

Those numbers are thanks in large part to the travel restrictions and social distancing we’ve all adjusted to.

In Leon and Gadsden Counties, RV parks are benefiting from the surge as they work to rebound from the impacts of the pandemic.

“Initially, in the beginning, everything slowed way down,” shared Shannon Elliott. She owns Big Oak RV Park in Leon County. “We dropped to about 50 percent capacity.” That drop started in April of 2020.

As lockdowns lifted, however, her business started to rebound in a big way. “I think a lot of families are opting to travel via RV now,” Elliott explained. She said from April of 2020 to April of 2019, they have seen about a 35 percent increase in business. She does not expect it to slow down either.

“There are some campgrounds I’ve talked to who have filled up for the year already,” added Jim Botts. He is the general manager of Camping World of Tallahassee in Gadsden County.

“Increases in buying went up about 43 percent,” Botts said. “People wanted to get outdoors. They couldn’t go on cruises. They couldn’t go on airlines”

Hitting the road for the great outdoors is a safe solution for many across the nation, including Frosty Walter. “I’m here. I’m an outdoors guy,” Walter shared. He and his wife are staying at Big Oak. “We’ve got a motorcycle we ride around on. The pandemic hasn’t bothered me much at all.”

Walter told ABC 27 his wife is a traveling nurse. RV parks have been a blessing when it comes to travel and living a good life. He said the only problem now is, “it’s tough to find a place to park.”

Looking ahead, Elliott said, “now, we’re getting to a point with full-timers where we can’t even really accommodate the football games or anything along those lines because we’re too full.”

If you plan on hitting the road in your RV, better plan ahead as those spots book up fast.