Manufacturer Survey: Outdoor Participation Increasing

A picture of an elderly couple leaning against an RV at the shore of an alpine lake.

Winnebago Industries, Inc. released its third annual spotlight survey that looks at outdoor industry trends and consumer behavior.

According to the report, this is the third consecutive year consumer outdoor participation has expanded.

Winnebago surveyed 1,009 adults who were 18 or older in May 2023.

As Americans make summer travel and recreation plans, they are increasingly looking to the outdoors and road trips to improve mental well-being and to combat the rising costs of flights, lodging and car rentals, the survey said.

In 2022, 82% of Americans indicated they participated in outdoor activities such as camping and hiking at a location away from their home, boating or visiting a state or national park. This is an increase from 60% in 2020 and 79% in 2021.

The trend will continue into 2023, the survey found, as 97% of Americans said they plan to enjoy outdoor activities this upcoming year, up from 95% last year. According to the survey, younger Americans are leading this growth as Gen Z were more likely to increase their activity in 2023 compared to Gen X and baby boomers.

According to the report, participation drivers for Americans getting outdoors are linked to their mental and physical well-being. Of the respondents surveyed, 52% said they will increase their outdoor activity to reduce stress, up 3% from 2022. Just under half (47%) of respondents said they will increase their outdoor activity to improve health and well-being. This reflects a 7% increase from 2022.

Additionally, 26% of respondents believe they will increase their outdoor activity to reduce expenses and save money, a 9% increase from 2022.

“It is clear that interest in activities like camping, boating and hiking continue to rise as more people become exposed to them and experience the benefits of spending more time outside.” said Michael Happe, president and CEO of Winnebago Industries. “The outdoors is a place to find health and happiness and to create cherished memories with family and friends. We see a certain ‘stickiness’ to those experiences from people of all ages and demographics which is encouraging to the future of the outdoor recreation industry.”

According to the survey, road trips are more appealing as inflation drives up the costs of airline tickets, rental cars and hotels. Almost two-thirds (63%) of respondents considered using an RV for a vacation rather than traveling by plane. Over two-thirds (70%) of respondents considered using an RV for travel instead of a flight, hotel and rental car.

In 2023, 19% of respondents indicated they will use an RV for their summer vacation transportation, up 6% from 2022.

Airline travel’s rising cost and hassles helped increase RV interest. Over half (55%) of respondents said airline tickets’ cost decreased their desire to travel by plane this summer. Other reasons for decreased plane travel include flight cancellations, busy airports, hidden fees and long security lines.

Shorter driving distances remained a popular vacation choice, with 49% of respondents saying they will drive less than 200 miles.

“Hitting the road in an RV for a summer vacation is a timeless American tradition,” said Amber Holm, chief marketing officer for Winnebago Industries. “We are seeing that vacationers are opting to travel shorter distances via roads rather than by plane as they look to find the freedom, connection and personal growth opportunities the outdoors can provide.”

Last November, Winnebago Industries announced a new, concerted effort in sharing its insights into the health of the outdoor recreation industry. This latest report is part of an annual release which includes data on summer travel plans.

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