A Look at Trends in Camps & Campgrounds


hey may vary widely in their locations, their visitors and patrons and their offerings in terms of programs and activities, but campgrounds, RV parks and private and youth camps all offer a mostly outdoor destination that allows people to get away from the daily grind—of home for school kids and of the workaday world for families, adults and retirees. Respondents from these kinds of facilities made up 7.1 percent of our total survey population.

According to the American Camp Association, there are more than 12,000 day and resident camps in the United States, and each year more than 11 million children and adults attend camp. These facilities are run by both nonprofit agencies as well as for-profit owners. In our survey, the respondents from camp facilities were heavily concentrated in privately run facilities, with 45.2 percent indicating they worked for private nonprofit facilities, and 40.4 percent working at private for-profit facilities. Another 13.7 percent said they worked for public organizations.

Respondents from camp facilities were the most likely to indicate they operated or managed just a single facility. More than seven in 10 camp respondents (70.5 percent) manage a single facility, while another 15 percent manage between two and five facilities.

Camp facilities were also the least likely to say that they had formed partnerships with other organizations, though 65.2 percent said they had done so.

Climbing Walls

Climbing walls are a common feature among camps respondents, and this is reflected in their staffing trends, as well as their programming:

  • 34.5 percent of camps respondents said they currently require some staff members to earn climbing certification (compared to 8 percent of all respondents).
  • While 34.9 percent of camps respondents currently include climbing walls as part of their facilities, they are among the most commonly planned additions, with nearly 10 percent planning to add a climbing wall within the next three years.
  • In line with these plans, 27 percent of camps respondents currently offer climbing programs, and climbing programs are among the top planned additional programs at camp facilities.

Economy & Attendance

Camps respondents were among those least likely to be expecting an increase in the number of people visiting their facilities in 2008 and 2009. From 2007 to 2008, 45.2 percent of camp respondents expect an increase in the number of people using their facilities, and from 2008 to 2009, 46.3 percent expect an increase, while 15.1 percent and 12.2 percent expect dropping numbers of visitors in those years. On the other hand, camps respondents were the most likely to expect an increase in their users in 2010, when 65.2 percent of respondents said they are anticipating an increase, and just 4.5 percent expect a drop. (See Figure 54.)

At the same time, camps are close to the average in their expectations for revenues in 2008. While 45.1 percent of all respondents said they expect their revenues to increase in 2008 over 2007, 45.5 percent of camps responded this way. In 2009 and 2010, camps are more positive than the average respondent. While 38.1 percent of all respondents expect a revenue increase in 2009 and 41 percent expect it in 2010, 46 percent of camps expect to see their revenues rise in 2009, and a full 61.2 percent of camps expect an increase in 2010. (See Figure 55.)

Like all respondents, camps respondents are expecting to see a drop in their operating expenditures in fiscal 2009, though the expenditures they report for this year are still higher than reported for fiscal 2007 according to last year's respondents. While last year's respondents reported average operating expenditures of $835,000 for fiscal 2007, this year's respondents reported an average budget of $960,000 for fiscal 2008, an increase of 15 percent. They then expect a drop of 8.6 percent in fiscal 2009 to $877,000, before their budgets begin to recover again in fiscal 2010. From 2008 to 2010, camps respondents expect an average decrease of 3.4 percent in their annual operating expenditures, better than the 9.3 percent drop expected among all facility types.

Learn a Little

Last fall, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) announced that it has formed a relationship with the American Camp Association (ACA) leading to the development of new online education opportunities.

Online courses address the growing need for training in areas relating to youth development, camping, recreation and workforce development. The curricula is provided by ACA, while the NRPA is facilitating the design and development of the online delivery system.

Learn more about these online learning opportunities at

Build It, They'll Come

Camps respondents were the most likely to indicate that they have construction plans in place over the next three years. While less than two-thirds of all respondents said they have plans, more than three-quarters (77.2 percent) of camps respondents have plans. More than half (57.5 percent) plan to make renovations to their existing facilities, and another 29.9 percent are planning additions. Camps respondents were also the most likely to be planning new facilities: 38.6 percent of these respondents indicate they have plans in place for new facilities over the next three years, 10 percent more than all respondents, 28.6 percent of whom have plans for new facilities. (See Figure 56.)

While they are the most likely to be planning construction, camps respondents have the smallest amount budgeted for their plans. They indicated they plan to spend an average of $913,000 on their construction, less than a quarter of the average amount planned across the board, of $4,835,000, and 83.3 percent less than health clubs are planning to spend.

The features of these facilities are heavily focused on amenities that provide an outlet for outdoor activity. More than two-thirds of camps respondents said their facilities currently include trails (68.5 percent) and open spaces like natural areas or gardens (67.8 percent). More than half also said they currently include outdoor aquatic facilities (61 percent), playgrounds (56.2 percent), park structures like restrooms and picnic shelters (55.5 percent), campgrounds (of course, 53.4 percent), and outdoor sports courts (50.7 percent). More than two in five also include classrooms and meeting rooms (47.9 percent) and/or a waterfront or marina (46.6 percent).

According to a survey from the American Camp Association, 75 percent of camp directors reported that they had been adding new activities and programs over the past few years, with a focus on challenging and adventurous activities featuring high and low ropes courses, climbing walls, zip lines, backpacking, mountain biking and cave exploring.

Hole in One

The third most commonly planned addition at camp facilities—disc golf courses—may come as a surprise to some readers, but it shouldn't.

Played like traditional golf, disc golf was formalized in the 1970s and features a flying disc or Frisbee in place of the ball. Also like golf, it can be played in beautiful settings, with a nine-hole course requiring as little as five acres of land, according to the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA).

"Disc golf courses can coexist with existing park facilities and activity areas," the association reports on its Web site. "The ideal location combines wooded and open terrains, and a variety of topographical change."

The site includes resources to help you design and install a disc golf course. To learn more, visit

Our survey bears out some of these findings, showing that camps are planning to add amenities and programs that highlight adventure, as well as fitness. The top 10 amenities camp respondents are planning to add to their facilities in the next three years are:

  1. Splash play areas
  2. Climbing walls
  3. Disc golf courses
  4. Park structures like picnic shelters and restroom buildings
  5. Nature centers
  6. Outdoor sports courts for games like tennis and basketball
  7. Fitness centers
  8. Indoor sports courts
  9. Playgrounds
  10. Trails

Likewise, the programs featured at camp facilities also focus on adventure, as well as some of the other activities that are commonly associated with the camp experience. More than half of the camps respondents said they currently include camping programming, arts and crafts, and day camps or summer camps; and more than two-thirds also feature holidays and special events, educational programming, environmental programs, programs developed specifically for teens, and water sports like canoeing and kayaking.

The top programs they are planning to add feature more of the same:

  1. Environmental education
  2. Holidays and special events
  3. Day camps and summer camps
  4. Arts & crafts
  5. Camping
  6. Education
  7. Trips
  8. Climbing

© Copyright 2022 Recreation Management. All rights reserved.