Outdoors Travel Goes Digital

As the short dated rental and outdoor domains are gaining momentum now, backyard tourism and staycation are becoming the new traveling. In recent years, people have been investing some vacation time in exploring places close to home. And coronavirus crisis has just fueled the tendency. The good news here is that outdoor traveling is going digital, creating a brand new, exciting experience for people.
5 min read
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By Neil Smullian
Vice President of Business Development
Outdoors Travel Goes Digital

According to Skift Research, U.S. Travel Tracker, travelers are now looking for drive-to locations, outdoor-oriented rural spots, and personalized cultural experiences within 100 miles from home. Herewith, tourism offices partner up with local communities to provide sought-after domestic destinations in the best possible way. So, besides sticking to all COVID-related public health protocols, they integrate digital developments. The latter are mostly turning on recreational vehicles, rental opportunities, and camping and designed to enhance customer experience and domestic tourism in general.

Preferred Destination Types Post COVID-19 by U.S.Consumers

Recreational Vehicles

At Skift Short-Term Rental & Outdoor Summit, Jessica Turner, an exec and spokeswoman of Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, shared that such services like RVShare make personal investments into recreational vehicles (RVs) and other outdoor gear pay off in a while. On the person-to-person market, owners can lease their "wheels" out. RVShare's CEO, Jon Gray, states that they can even drive vehicles to the campgrounds and arrange them for occupants. In the long run, the cost of the purchase will be covered.

Additionally, RVs have all the chances to turn into great mobile offices. The trend is becoming mainstream as work-from-anywhere breed is coming up. 

According to Matt Gaghen, CEO of Under Canvas (another spokesman), investors and individual equity firms are surveying attractive investment opportunities. They see the sector blossoming and other domains of the open air going digital and leveling up in services.


Experiences are now more accessible due to digital tech, and camping is no exception. Thus, Hipcamp, an online marketplace company, aims to take outdoors' offline and physical activities online.

The company strives to "build parks" where teams are seeking ranchers and vintners to encourage them to open their estate for campers. What is more, they organize webinars on how to create positive experiences. The startup also works out digital widgets to help guests become good keepers of the lands they come to see. For example, by providing practices on how to defend against accidental wildfires.

It is important to mention that Covid-related restrictions did not stop the camping sphere's significant boost. Quite the opposite, 21% of people went camping, 25% of North American campers headed to campgrounds for the first time, and 42% are convinced they will keep camping – all since the regulations were announced (according to Kampgrounds of America's annual North American Camping Report).

What do the numbers say? There is plenty of room for startups like Hipcamp and the like for innovations to ensure the best possible customer experience in the sector.

Technology for Outdoors

"There would be no fortune, but misfortune helped" is a fair statement for the outdoors sector. When the pandemic began, outdoors companies faced huge restrictions and thus enormous challenges. For example, playgrounds and bathhouses could not be opened. This is where technology was of much help in sorting out the situation. Thanks to new reservation systems, companies managed to adapt to pandemic reality and prevent mass gathering in one place.

The above-mentioned Hipcamp has integrated a national weather feature to automatically inform hip campers and hosts about possible fire dangers in a particular area. This enables early cancellation and allows keeping people safe.

Julie Brinkman from Beyond Pricing, a platform of pricing insights for vacation rental managers, came up with the solution to wrong property pricing. The so-called dynamic pricing tool helps owners instantly respond to supply and demand changes. Now, they will be able to seize demand in-between trip gaps. This allows for a significant revenue increase.

Curtis Kopf from REI, a chief digital officer with a solid track record of building digital products, emphasizes the power of subscription and virtual transactions as a way out to customers' problems. Another "subscription evangelist" from Oasis, a housing-as-a-service company, Parker Stanberry highlights the importance of subscription models. Several subscription programs allow customers to make a choice according to their stay duration.

Yet, the sector is still a work in progress. For example, Toby O’Rourke from Kampgrounds of America says that the company's primary task is to enable clients to book locations for intermediaries of KOA API. One of the steps for Jon Gray from RVShare is to assist owners in keeping their calendar updated to prevent incorrect reservations.


The crisis has surfaced new perspectives for the outdoor travel business in terms of extra services, tourist experience, and revenue sources. And digitalization is not just an integral part of them. Nowadays, it is a prerequisite if companies are willing to keep up with the OTA space trends and stay ahead of the game.

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