The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) welcomed Go RVing’s Karen Redfern and other outdoor recreation industry representatives at a virtual Capitol Hill briefing on Oct. 21 to discuss policy issues and the impact of COVID on the industry.
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) opened the briefing on a positive note.
“I want to say how optimistic I am that we can make the outdoor industry a key piece of our national recovery,” Heinrich said. “We need to absolutely prioritize investments in the outdoors and new opportunities to get outside.”
The RV industry was just kicking into full gear in March, Redfern said. When the world came to a screeching halt amid stay-at-home orders, RV manufacturers were shuttered for six weeks or more.
“For an industry set on hitting the open road, staying put was devastating,” Redfern said. “But we’re a 110-year-old industry that came back stronger.”
In 2020, the RV industry shipped more than 400,000 new units and employed more than 600,000 American workers. The $114 billion industry is projected to ship more than 500,000 units next year, Redfern said.
“Americans are RV camping more than ever,” she said. “Parks and forests are experiencing tremendous camping demands.”
Eighty-one percent of Americans got outside this year, and were mostly first-time recreationists, Redfern said.
Many Americans find RV camping one of the safest forms of travel, she stated. Modernizing camping grounds for WiFi and electricity usage is essential for the many people who are now working remotely, along with students in schools that use virtual learning platforms. The RV Technical Institute has released a new technical training program accessible online, bringing its curriculum to a larger number of people.
The RV traveling season is extending beyond the usual summer, she stated. Safe and adequate campgrounds will bring in tourist dollars, increase RV inventory and camping opportunities on federal lands.
The Great American Outdoors Act, signed by President Donald Trump in August, was an encouraging action for the outdoor recreation industry, Redfern said. The legislation will provide significant investment into public lands.
“Congress has an opportunity to pass an outdoor recreation package that will allow Americans to access public lands and experience the benefits of the great outdoors,” Redfern said. “We ask Congress to continue to capitalize on this bipartisan momentum.”
Republicans and Democrats have come together for major victories in the outdoor recreation space, Heinrich said. Serving the American public and safe guarding industry values that deliver public benefits requires forward-thinking objectives, he said.
“It’s important to prepare all of us for actions we need to take to achieve more victories for the outdoor recreation economy,” Heinrich said.