Travel experts expect the summer of 2020 to be the summer of the RV road trip.

The coronavirus has disrupted how travelers want to spend their money.

As lockdown restrictions ease, industry experts expect travelers to stay closer to home and take road trips rather than flights.

RV dealers are seeing an influx of new customers who want to buy or rent. 

Traveling by RV is inherently socially distanced because travelers are in self-contained units and can control their surroundings, the chairman of the RV Industry Association told Business Insider.

Roadside motels may also see a surge in popularity because their design allows guests fewer opportunities to be exposed to other people indoors, hoteliers say.

The coronavirus has disrupted travel in unprecedented ways, grounding airlines and emptying out hotel rooms.

But as lockdown restrictions begin to lift around the world, people are once again thinking about travel — and the best ways to do it during a pandemic.

Travel experts expect the summer of 2020 to be the summer of the road trip.

“As home isolation orders are lifted yet physical distancing remains top of mind, we anticipate road trips and personal auto travel will rebound faster than group travel,” Andre Haddid, the CEO of car-sharing company Turo, recently told Business Insider. “Travelers will prefer the privacy and comfort of traveling in their own car with close family and friends.”

This desire for control over how many people travelers interact with could result in some unexpected side-effects: The unassuming roadside motel may find itself more popular than a luxury hotel, and RVs may become the go-to mode of transportation.

Here are the unexpected ways travelers will be spending their money differently this summer.


Everyone might be traveling by RV this summer

Travel experts expect that as people venture out again, they’ll start by traveling closer to home instead of hopping on flights. And that could make the summer of 2020 the summer of RV travel.

“There’s some indication that as we settle into a new normal, folks will forego air travel, cruises, and overseas trips in favor of destinations that are closer to home,” Bob Wheeler, the CEO of travel trailer company Airstream, recently told Business Insider. “RVs are the perfect vehicle for that kind of mindset. You can move at your own pace, and bring along your own environment in which to live and cook and relax.”

RV dealers across the US are already seeing a surge in inquiries, per the The RV Industry Association, the national trade association for RV makers and suppliers.

Mike Regan, the president of Crestview RV, told Bloomberg last week that floor traffic at his two RV dealerships outside Austin, Texas, was up 30% compared to last May. The biggest group of interested buyers and renters are people who are looking to travel by RV for the first time because of the pandemic, he said. 

Interest in the RV lifestyle is "literally off the charts right now," per the chairman of the RV Industry Association.
Interest in the RV lifestyle is “literally off the charts right now,” per the chairman of the RV Industry Association.

El Monte RV

“Interest in the RV lifestyle — because it’s so Americana and the desire for people to get out and explore their immediate surroundings and visit some of the iconic places in the country — it is literally off the charts now,” Garry Enyart, chairman of the RV Industry Association, told Business Insider.

RV travelers are in self-contained units and can control their surroundings — obvious benefits in a pandemic, Enyart said.

Regan told Bloomberg that he may soon even run out of RVs due to the skyrocketing demand.

“The minute the campgrounds opened on May 1 and the governor turned everyone loose, our business went through the roof,” Regan said.

The humble motel may be in a high demand

But not everyone taking road trips will be traveling by RV, and the increase in people traveling by car could have an unexpected side-effect: The unassuming roadside motel may see a surge in popularity, according to hoteliers.

Tenaya Hills, the design director at Bunkhouse Group, a hospitality company known for revitalizing roadside motels in Texas, California, and Mexico, said that a boost in road trippers will also influence where travelers choose to rest their heads.

“The classic motor court style hotel — like the Austin Motel in Austin and the Phoenix Hotel in San Francisco — pairs perfectly with [road trips], especially now when travelers are looking for a low-contact, but still memorable experience,” Hills told Business Insider. 

The majority of Bunkhouse’s properties have exterior corridors and rooms that guests enter from the outside — an aesthetic choice that happens to be particularly beneficial when traveling in a pandemic, Hills said.

“In the time of COVID the motel model is light touch — you’re not spending time in a lobby and fresh air is just outside your hotel room’s front door,” she said.

The Phoenix Hotel in San Francisco.
The Phoenix Hotel in San Francisco.

Jackie Lee Young

Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, which operates brands like Super 8 and Days Inn, is already seeing rising demand for its properties with exterior corridors, per The New York Times. And the owners of these motels are finding the lack of interior hallways and large social spaces to be a benefit, limiting guests’ exposure to other people and lowering the risk of infection, Dave DeCecco, Wyndham’s vice president of global communications, recently told Business Insider. Guests can also often park directly outside their room, which further limits their exposure to strangers.

Erik Warner, the hotelier behind Sound View, a boutique property with exterior corridors in Greenport, Long Island, not far from the Hamptons, the favorite summer vacation spot of New York City’s elite, told Business Insider they’ve been experimenting with how to make guests feel as safe as possible.

The Sound View on New York's Long Island has contactless check in and doors that open up directly to the beach.
The Sound View on New York’s Long Island has contactless check in and doors that open up directly to the beach.

Read McKendree

Check in at Sound View has been made completely contactless: Guests can park right in front of the door to their room and open it with a smartphone app. Clear signage has been placed throughout the property to encourage social distancing measures, such as flags planted in the sand to designate reserved beach areas.

Upon booking, guests at Sound View are asked to sign a pledge to follow the rules of social distancing and mask-wearing while within six feet of another person — or else they are asked to leave the property without a refund.

“We’re just trying to think ahead as to what a traveler who has been living under these conditions would feel comfortable stepping into as their first trip outside of a shelter in place restriction,” Warner said.

Beyond their inherent social distancing and aesthetic benefits, many motels are lower-budget than traditional hotels, which could be a key factor at a time of historic unemployment rates in the US.

New York Magazine reported in April that across the US, economy hotels lost less business and maintained a higher occupancy rate during the pandemic than upscale hotels. From May 3 to May 23, economy hotels in the US averaged almost 45% occupancy, more than double the average occupancy of luxury hotels, which was just over 19%, per data from analytics company STR.

Source: Business Insider

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