We’ve spent some time in our Trending Topics posts gazing into the crystal ball when it comes to business travel. I’ve also written about some good signs that travel in general is starting to bounce back.
But what will that travel look like in the coming years?
This question popped into my mind after reading about how RVs have surged in popularity in recent years, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as the allure of traveling while also avoiding crowded areas has grown stronger for many people.
RV’ing and the mobility industry might not immediately intersect — RV trips are often done for recreational reasons, and mobility programs are more likely to support more conventional modes of transportation, such as airline travel. But the growing popularity of RVs does raise some interesting questions when it comes to mobility programs and the future of travel.
For one, the RV lifestyle might align more with the growing “digital nomad” movement, where people choose to work remotely as they travel from one location to another. My colleague Chris Pardo recently wrote an interesting post on whether mobility teams could or should support these employees.
There’s also the bigger picture of what traveling by RV represents: Instead of filing through busy airports and packing into hotels, RV travelers are opting for an experience that gets them further away from the hustle and bustle of a typical trip. For some, this may be a direct reaction to the pandemic, but RVs were growing in popularity before 2020, so it’s not simply a pandemic-era trend. The rise of alternative housing options such as Airbnb in the past decade also points toward a desire to have a unique experience that offers more privacy and less crowding.
I’m not saying that you need an “RV travel policy” in your mobility program, but it is a good idea to consider what these larger trends might mean. Are you offering business travelers and relocating employees enough choice and control to select options that best fit their lifestyles and needs? Airports and hotels will still have their place, but these emerging trends indicate that travelers will continue to seek out alternatives. Mobility programs that take a similar approach of seeking out and utilizing alternatives will be better equipped to meet employees where they are.
Road travel has been in a growth mode for a very long time. RV ownership over the past two decades has increased more than 62%, according to a study conducted by the RV Industry Association (RVIA). The global pandemic also has transformed the way Americans travel, with personal transportation naturally providing a socially distanced experience. The ability to work remotely and attend school online also has highlighted the benefits of the road trip over other modes of leisure travel. Sales of RVs also are up, supercharged by pandemic-induced longing to get out on the road. During the first half of 2021, RV shipments topped 300,267 units, an increase of over 70% compared with the same period in 2020, according to RVIA data.