The purpose of this report is to assess whether there is viable demand, revenue potential and ROI to support adding Class B focused dispersed sites to an augment a traditional RV Resort offering. RVs can broken down into two main classifications: motorized and tow-behind.
The Class B sites will be more widely dispersed with only 1-2 sites per acre featuring dense vegetative barriers and increased privacy and seclusion. These smaller site pads will be a max of 30 feet long and 10feet wide. They will be graveled and level, and the sites will include a picnic table, hammock, lounge chairs, trash receptacle and private campfire ring. They will have no utility connections to the sites. The roads to these sites will be dirt, narrow and overall less maneuverable making them not easily accessible to vehicles over 25’ and tow-behinds.
These dispersed sites will only be accessible to customers with SUV’s, Class B motorhomes, camper vans, and truck campers. It is anticipated that these sites will be most popular to the Class B motorhome/camper van segments. The remainder of this analysis will focus on this van customer segment.
The Emerging Van Segment - Van Key Advantages
In the last decade, a new segment of aftermarket, cargo van conversions has begun to grow in rapid popularity. This new segment is most commonly seen in cargo vans such as the Mercedes Sprinters, FordTransits and Dodge Promasters. These cargo vans were historically used for commercial purposes, but are now being converted and remodeled into livable, recreation vehicles. For the sake of this report this will be referred to as ‘the van segment’.
This new van segment has grown in popularity because they offer several key advantages over traditional RVs.
These vans are highly navigable and easy to store. They are shorter in length and width than most RVs.Their turning radius is comparable to a traditional SUV and they can fit in most common parking spaces.This makes these vans extremely approachable for the general population who might be intimidated by parking or storing a large RV. It also makes the vans easier to bring into urban areas and cities which would not be an option for a big rig RV or tow-behind. The size of vans has made them accessible to an entirely new customer segment in the urban and suburban areas who wouldn’t be able to park or store a traditional RV conveniently.
Vans typically achieve a fuel economy that is 2-3x better than a traditional Class A motorhome which makes them more appealing for long road trips in the high gas price climate. This is also attractive for the eco-friendly focused consumer.
A large portion of cargo vans are equipped with off road capability including 4 wheel drive, all terrain tires and lifted suspension for higher clearance. Traditional RVs and tow-behinds are confined to paved and wide roads with forgiving turning radius. The van segment, in most cases, can be considered off-road vehicles. Since this segment is focused on outdoor adventure, which oftentimes can be in remote wilderness areas with poor roads, this is a key new feature.
There is also a big difference in design both internally and externally. RVs have been following the same external and internal design aesthetics for decades will little innovation. The van segment has completely redefined this standard for a rugged, but sleek exterior, and modern and tasteful interior. Examples can be seen across the Sandy Vans website.
Summary of key growth drivers for the van segment:
- Easier to drive
- Easier to store
- Higher fuel efficiency / eco-friendly
- Off-road capable
- Modern design aesthetic internally and externally
- RVs are typically associated with older Baby Boomer generations and densely packed RV parks while thevan segment is emerging as rugged, but stylish and allows for more unbounded adventures.
Van Segment Growth
The growth in this segment can be seen in the RVIA 2022 RV shipments report featured below. Since the record RV shipments in 2021, most categories of RV have not been able to sustain that same level of growth trajectory in 2022 and are experiencing a decline, albeit still record high numbers overall. Truck campers have experienced 23.9% YOY to date growth from record setting 2021 shipments. Class B campervans have seen 36.7% YOY to date growth in 2022. These figures demonstrate the surging demand in this space.
The van segment customer demographic can be simplified into two main categories. The first is the ‘fulltime’ van lifers. This customer segment is actually living out of their van full time or for most of the year.For the full time customer, their van is both their means of transportation and their homes. This segment is typically living in their van to save money and live a mobile and low cost lifestyle. This full time van lifer is less attractive to target because they are extremely budget focused and typically looking for the lowest cost option available.
The second main van customer segment is the leisure demographic. These customers use their van as a means to enjoy their outdoor recreation hobbies. It is used on the weekends and for shorter trips that are less than a month at a time. This customer segment possesses a much higher disposable income level.
Most often this customer purchases a van conversion from an after market van builder. Most commonly, this segment is purchasing converted Mercedes Sprinter Vans, Ford Transits, and Dodge Promasters. These vans are typically 18’ to 25’ long and often feature 4 wheel drive capability and added traction tires. Purchasing a brand new cargo van with a full build conversion typically start at $100,000 and can reach upwards of $250,000. Two wheel drive vehicles without a bathroom are typically on the lower end of the range while 4x4 vehicles with bathrooms are typically on the high end. There are numerous other add on features like exterior components and solar / battery setups that increase the price as well.
Defining the Need
Most traditional RV resorts offer the comfort of full utility hookups at their site, reservable spaces and other enjoyable amenities close by like sport courts, rec halls and pools. The problem is that traditionalRV resorts are densely packed often with 6-12 sites per acre. This means that most guests are 10 to 30feet from their neighbor, and they can see and hear each other for the entirety of their stay.
This customer segment is typically motivated by an outdoor or wilderness experience. They are traveling to escape their neighbors and be immersed in nature. This experience is not being offered at traditional RV resorts.
The opposite end of the spectrum is the fully off-grid experience. This segment is utilizing national forest, BLM and other public lands. This segment is going fully off grid and forgoing utility hook ups, cell service and the ability to reserve a site ahead of time in exchange for a remote and private experience immersed in nature.
There are ample options at both ends of this spectrum. There are thousands of RV resorts throughout the country and there are millions of acres of national forest and BLM land available, but there are almost no options that offer an experience somewhere in between.
There are few offerings available to the van owner who wants a private and secluded experience in nature, but doesn’t want to sacrifice their access to utilities, amenities and the ability to plan ahead and reserve a site.
The Solution – A Hybrid Experience: Dispersed Class B Sites
The offering for consideration is a hybrid between these two options. This involves reservable sites that are secluded and immersed in nature, and utilities and amenities are a close distance away that can be accessed if needed.
These sites are level, graveled and only offer a campfire ring, picnic table, lounge chairs, hammock and trash receptacle. There are only one to two sites per acre offering an experience of sounds and sights that are natural and free of neighbors. Most vans are equipped with enough power and water to last several days. This allows guests to be self sufficient at their site most of the time. If they do need to charge their batteries, fill up on water, or dump sewage, it is only a short drive or walk away.
It is still advised that bathrooms and showers be provided at a central location near these sites. Many vans are equipped with limited bathrooms likes portable toilets and showers with limited, low flow water.Having access to flush toilets and showers with unlimited, running hot water would be desirable and an important amenity to have close by.
Existing Comparable Businesses
In order to gauge average rates and occupancy for these dispersed sites, California was researched for businesses with a similar offering. There are ample RV resorts and campgrounds that feature sites that are secluded and immersed in nature, but these sites are outdated and include few, if any, amenities on the premise. Even when the search was expanded to the entire U.S., very few similar businesses were found.
One currently operating, somewhat comparable business was identified in California, Van Camp, operating near Joshua Tree. Our research did reveal that two industry leading glamping brands, AutoCamp and Collective Retreats, will be launching a similar experience catering to the van segment, that will be opening in early 2023. Our search also revealed LOGE Camps which is an outdoor focused brand that is converting distressed motels. They have 7 locations including one in Mt. Shasta. There are 8 smaller, private camps listed on HipCamp near Mt. Shasta that were also considered. A more in-depth look at these businesses can be seen below.
Van Camp – (Joshua Tree, CA & Bisbee, AZ)
Van Camp is the best comparable business we could find for the subject’s intended business concept. This business is catering specifically to the van life community. They opened their first site in Joshua Tree, CA, and they are opening their second site in Bisbee, AZ in 2023. This business is more focused on the full time van life demographic of the van segment which is traditionally more budget conscious. However, they offer a lot of amenities and are building a strong brand. Their rates provide a helpful benchmark.
They offer a ‘boondock site’ with no hookups starting at $25/night or $500/month. They also offer a‘power site’ which is the same as the boondock site except it has 30 amp power hookups. These power sites go for $50/night. The full list of amenities included with the site and add ons can be seen below.
In summary, Van Camp is a good comparison due to the amenities available on the site and a focus on the van segment customer. It falls short because it is targeting the more economical van segment, and it is not offering a secluded experience immersed in nature.
AutoCamp is one of the four largest and industry leading glamping brands. They started in 2015 inCalifornia and now have 10 open locations throughout the U.S, including 4 in California. Autocamp’s traditional glamping sites offer a highly quality glamping experience complete with full service restaurants and extensive programing. They are known for their classic Airstream units, but they also offer modern cabins and seasonal glamping tents.
In October 2022, Autocamp announced that they are opening what they call ‘Field Stations’. These are more rugged and remote offerings with less infrastructure and amenities. Instead of Airstreams, they offer renovated motel rooms and van parking with some basic utility hook ups. Excerpts from a press release on their website can be seen below.
Field Station is launching in 2023 in Moab, Utah, with rates under $200 per night. A location in JoshuaTree, California is also scheduled to open in 2023, followed by a Lake Tahoe unit in 2024.
Calling all outdoorsy types who prefer sleeping indoors: AutoCamp is branching out from its Airstream glamping resorts to launch a new lodging brand that will upcycle existing lodges and motels into affordable basecamps in the United States. Field Station will open its first location in early 2023 in Moab, Utah, followed by two California hotels in Joshua Tree and Lake Tahoe by 2024.
In addition to traditional king and double queen hotel rooms, Field Station will offer camper van parking spots with access to communal bathrooms and showers, plus Wi-Fi for those living the van life.Affordability is a key component of this new brand, with nightly rates starting at $159 for rooms and $49Van Life spots during non peak seasons.
Amenities will include a pool, fire pits, an espresso bar, plus a gathering spot called Gear + Beer where guests can return rented gear and purchase food and drink after a day of hiking.
Rooms at the Field Station Moab are not available to book yet.
Autocamp van sites are starting at $49 in the off season. It is anticipated these will be closer to $100 in peak season based on Autocamp’s typical pricing structure. The subject’s offering will be largely similar, but the biggest difference is that AutoCamp has an extremely strong brand strength. The subject’s offering will be superior in that its sites will be more private and secluded. This data is indicative that the subject could price at $49 in low season and between $80-$100/night in peak season.
Collective Retreats is one of the oldest and most prominent brands in glamping. They offer a high end safari tent glamping experience complete with upscale hotel service and amenities like a gourmet restaurant. They recently announced a partnership with Outdoorsy, the largest online RV/van rental booking platform. In the Fall 2022, they announced they will be offering sites specifically for the van customer segments in 2023. These are luxury van sites with access to the upscale amenities of the resort.
It is a positive indicator for this van segment to see that two industry leaders are entering this space,however, since both of them aren’t expected to launch until 2023 there is no existing data for rates or demand to be expected for this type of site.
Descriptions of the Collective Retreats offering and amenities can be seen below.
“Easily accessible from Austin and San Antonio, this retreat offers one of the most breathtaking vistas in the Texas Hill Country, perched on a ridge above Montesino Ranch. With dedicated RV parking, farm-to-ranch style cuisine, and numerous wellness perks and outdoor experiences to pick from, Collective Hill Country makes for a perfect place to plan a stop along your RV journey. Our special Outdoorsy preferred rate package is offered Sunday through Thursday.”
- Secure RV parking space
- Stylish accommodations in a Journey Tent or Summit Tent
- 15% off our best available rate
- $75 dining credit per reservation (non-transferable, must be used time of stay)
- Personal in-tent welcome amenity
- Complimentary gourmet S’mores at the nightly campfire
- Complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast
Van specific sites are not available on the Collective Retreats website for booking yet so there is no rate information available. They are currently running a promotion with Outdoorsy which allows van customers 15% off their traditional glamping tent sites bookings. The cheapest rate is about $250 which means van customers can book for about $210 per night. This booking includes their glamping tent as well.
Loge is an outdoor adventure focused boutique hotel. They renovate distressed motels and create an offering aimed at the outdoor adventure segment. In addition to their lodge rooms, they also offer primitive campsites / van sites. LOGE has nearby locations at Mt. Shasta and in Bend, Oregon.
Campsite Description: No matter the weather, we’ve got you covered, literally! Covered camp spots have electric hookups, water, and easy access to the community outdoor kitchen, bathrooms, and showers, cafe& taproom, and gear rentals. These sites are perfect for your van, camper, tent, or one of those cute little tear drop trailers! The full LOGE experience is complete when you turn on the personal twinkle lights, and invite new friends from the community in for a shared dinner around the picnic table. Sites include:
- Wireless internet (WiFi)
- Access to our community spaces
- Full kitchen with all of the supplies
- Shared restrooms
LOGE charges $30 for a weekday night and $50 for a weekend night for the basic campsites which are altering to van life segments. These sites offer similar amenities as the subject, but their sites are densely packed offering little privacy or immersion in nature.
HipCamp Private Sites
HipCamp is a booking platform or Online Travel Agency (OTA). They allow private landowners to list their properties for camping, RV sites and glamping. A simple search was conducted to gauge demand in the area.
There is a large variety across these HipCamp sites, but they provide a helpful benchmark. These rates fall between $42-$85/night. Most of them are highly spacious offering more than one acre per site.However, most have few available.
Since this concept is so new, our research included polling some of the popular van life groups on social media. There was a good response of 49 votes.
- 64% said they would be willing to pay $40-60/night for a dispersed site offering
- 16% said they would be willing to pay $60-80/night for a dispersed site offering
The advantage of the dispersed class B sites is that they require minimal upfront development, only a fraction of a paved RV site with hookups. These sites are likely to reach payback in their first or second year and have high cash on cash returns. The RV sites require a higher upfront cost, but on a ten year investment horizon, they will make more.
- Sandy Vans