Photo: The Canadian Press
Bucars RV Center General Manager Jeff Redmond with new recreational vehicles at his land in Balzac, Alta.
With gasoline prices at an all-time high, Jeff Redmond says he plans to stay close to home when RV camping this summer.
Says the owner and general manager of the Bucars RV Center in Balzac, Alta. RVs are still one of the most affordable ways to travel as a couple or with a family once you take into account hotels, petrol prices or airfare costs.
“We laugh that RVers are the winners,” Redmond said in an interview this week.
Gasoline cost has fallen slightly ahead of the long weekend in May, the unofficial start of the summer camping season, but analysts say summer demand in the coming weeks has the potential to raise prices further.
Redmond said that could affect where he’s traveling this year.
“The Okanagan Valley is a place I like to go to…and that’s a seven-hour drive, so maybe I’ll go to Pigeon Lake or Gaol Lake (Alberta), which is an hour-and-a-half drive,” he said. The good news is I’m still going.
“We are able to change our plans and work within our budget.”
Redmond said he’s heard a similar opinion from customers. Some are close to home. Others plan to stay longer at one camping site.
“You park the bigger trailer at a permanent camping site, or at your friend’s cottage, or on the old family farm, or at a winery in the Okanagan—and you don’t tow,” he said. “You hop in your family car and go back and forth. You have a compact cabin, very affordable…off the grid, very efficient once you get there.
“A lot of people are no longer dripping.”
Rob Minarchi is Vice President of Sales for the ArrKann Trailer & RV Center with outlets across Alberta. He said there has been a lot of demand for recreational vehicles since the start of the pandemic and it hasn’t slowed this year.
“Most (people) develop, like that sounds crazy,” he said from Edmonton. “Some people are selling…because conditions have changed but, for the most part, they are only trading for different units.
“There are a lot of new RVers who came to market when COVID first came out…but they didn’t know exactly what they wanted.”
These clients, he said, trade in units that better suit their needs.
Minarchi said he hasn’t heard of anyone dumping an RV due to rising gas prices.
“What we’re seeing is a lot of people getting a little closer to camping,” he said. “If they’re going to take a five-hour flight, now they’re going to take a one-hour flight…I think it’s actually a little bit related to the COVID virus and staying close to home.
“They’ve found so many hidden gems locally… in the past two years that it’s okay to do so.”
Some camps are beginning to notice some changes.
A few people have canceled,” said Scott Cast, owner of a Tomahawk RV in Lake of the Woods, Ontario.
But he said gas prices were a secondary factor in those cancellations.
“We have a lot of Americans here,” Cast said. “One of the things that is holding people back is vaccine mandates.”
Another camp manager told CKPG radio station in Prince George, British Columbia, that some people traveling from far away had canceled.
“A lot of people want to stay local,” said Bobby Karpino, who runs Salmon Valley Campground.
“We’ve seen cancellations from people coming from the states going to Alaska, as well as people coming from the lower mainland.”
The price of fuel can add $100 or $200 to the cost of an average camping trip, Minarchi said.
“It feels like a lot when you’re at the pump, but…it can still be done,” he said. “Less than a restaurant eating out pays for the difference in fuel for the entire camping trip.”
He said some RVers are adding solar panels and buying generators to make it easier for off-grid camping — including on Crown grounds. Others park their RVs at permanent locations throughout the summer.
“They’re still camping, so that’s fine.”
Redmond said the pandemic has encouraged many people to get outdoors in their RV, on a mountain bike or with a set of golf clubs.
He said, “I’m a guy who went and bought a new bike and there’s no way to sell my bike. It’s been great to ride on the roads and to reintroduce that.”
“There are (a lot of) people, and their lives have got in our way in the great outdoors. They’re stepping back now and saying, ‘Wow, that was cool’ and they’ll keep doing that.”