RV and boat vendors expect to see young families at show in Huntington

January 27, 2018 GMT

HUNTINGTON — As millennials age and find themselves wanting to relive their youth and explore the great outdoors, vendors at Big Sandy Superstore Arena’s Huntington RV & Boat Show this weekend are expecting to see more younger families than ever before.

They suspect two things are responsible for the trend. Millennials have fond memories of spending time outdoors with family while growing up, and the RV and boating industries have gone to significant lengths to make sure their products can interact with smartphones, tablets and other smart products.

“Millennials seem to be more in touch with nature,” said Phil Abbott, sales manager at Burdette Camping Center. “They want to see the country.”

West Virginia’s mountainous terrain serves as a popular travel destination for folks who enjoy outdoor activities, especially skiing. Kentucky and other nearby states also offer a wealth of interesting geographical features, making Appalachia a hot spot for camping and boating.


Having spent 13 years running the Huntington RV & Boat Show, Jeff Scott hasn’t noticed a dramatic increase in the number of millennials buying RVs and boats, but he suggested that could be because many West Virginians don’t have as much disposable income as people do in other places. People here spend plenty of time outdoors, but not necessarily camping in an RV or boating.

Scott said the RV and boating industries suffered when the Great Recession began in December 2007, but people across the country have been looking for ways to get back outside and travel since the economy has recovered.

“When the economy got bad, I think a lot of people realized they couldn’t afford to take those big trips,” Scott said. “The boat industry has been a little slower to recover, but the RV industry is back in full force.”

The people really seeing the trend, though, are the vendors, manufacturers, campgrounds and marinas. According to the 2017 North American Camping Survey commissioned by Kamp-grounds of America Inc. (KOA), millennials made up 38 percent of campers.

Abbott said adults up to 35 years old have been Burdette Camping Center’s fastest-growing demographic for camper sales over the past three to five years, and many of them see it as a worthwhile investment with affordable financing options. As such, manufacturers are making their campers technologically functional with an element of class.

Jonathan Lodge of Charleston Marine said younger families and millennials are especially interested in pontoon boats because they are useful for a variety of purposes, like hosting friends or fishing.

“It’s kind of like a big play pen for (kids),” Lodge said. “We see a lot of pontoon sales to younger families because they don’t really have to worry about their kids falling off.”

Follow reporter Joshua Quails on Twitter @JQuallsHD.



WHAT: The 37th annual Huntington RV & Boat Show is coming to the Big Sandy Superstore Arena with the latest campers, boats and all-terrain vehicles on the market.

WHEN: 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 26; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 27; and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 28.

TICKETS: Tickets ($8 for adults, free for kids under 12) are available at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena Box Office or by phone at 304-696-5990.

ON DECK AT THE ARENA: Just about every weekend in early 2018 is full. Here’s a look: Feb. 6, Paw Patrol Live; Feb. 27, The Price is Right Live; March 7, The Harlem Globetrotters; March 15, Casting Crowns; March 22, Cole Swindell with Chris Janson with Lauren Alaina; April 6, REO Speedwagon and Styx; and April 13, the Dogwood Arts and Crafts Festival.