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B.C. RV sales ready for rebound after post-pandemic lull

Canadian RV Market finding a new balance after supply-chain issues
2023 was a bit of a transition year for the RV industry in B.C. as some people traded up or down while others were sidelined

The arrival of spring also marks the ramp up of RV season for many, and in 2024 the industry appears to be back on a smoother road after a bumpy few years.

Demand soared during the pandemic as travel was seriously restricted. A lot of Canadians who had never tried it before got themselves a camper, trailer or motorhome. However that put a lot of pressure on dealerships.

“It wasn’t all easy and fun here in this industry. Yes, the demand was high but the supply was really hard to get,” explains Jason Friesen, vice president of Voyager RV in Lake Country.

Sales down 30 per cent in 2023

Friesen says 2023 was a bit of a transition year as some people traded up or down while others were sidelined. Sales dropped 30 per cent in B.C., compared to 2022.

“We expected that, and that was something that we were prepared for, and was needed to be able to get the supply back to where it would be a health supply-demand market.

“Heading into this year, it’s been great. It’s been a really good start to the year,” said Friesen, who believes things are back to pre-pandemic levels for 2024.

He says that families who sat things out last year because of rising interest rates and soaring inflation, are returning to the market. “As we’ve come into this season, that young family, bunkbed trailer buyer, which is such a big part of our market, those shoppers are back. And really back to kind of where it feels like it was pre-pandemic, which is great.”

He points out that manufacturers hit by the supply crunch a few years ago, now have plenty of supply. Some have reduced suggested retail prices from the highs of 2022 and 2023.

“That’s sort of allowed the demand to kind of catch up in a way, but also bringing people back into the market who may have been sidelined in 2023,” said Friesen.

RV renters opting for delivery

There has also been a shift in RV rental behaviour, according to the founder of rental website

“With the interest rate environment and uncertain economic situation that we’re going through, we’re seeing motorhome trips are generally shorter. We’re seeing the trip length decrease a little bit. So people aren’t travelling as far,” notes Michael McNaught. “But what’s been increasing, significantly, over the last two years is what we like to call RV delivery.”

More vacationers are opting to reserve a campsite and have the owner of the rental trailer set it up on the site for them, complete with everything they need.

“What I love about the delivered one is that the owners of the RV, it’s set up like a hotel. Your linens, your dishes, everything you kind of need in that one place, but then you’re steps away from exploring Kelowna,” adds McNaught, who recently tried it out when he visited RVezy investor, Markus Frind and his Frind Estate Winery in West Kelowna. (Frind has invested $23 million in RVezy since 2019.)

Watching short-term rental fallout

While the industry is back to what Friesen calls a healthy market after the artificially high numbers during the pandemic, he’s unsure if it will see any upswing from the B.C. government’s changes to the rules governing short-term rentals.

“I always believe and have seen from the 21 years I’ve been doing this, it seems like it’s just kind of separate,” said Friesen. “Will there be a little bit of spillover? Maybe, I just don’t think that’s what drives the market, but I guess time will tell.”

Both Friesen and McNaught say most experienced RVers are booking their summer campsites now or have already booked, but some still choose to just hit the road and see where it takes them.