June 02, 2006 (PRLEAP.COM) Travel News
Park model trailers, a niche product largely unknown to most Americans, have surged in popularity as record numbers of consumers have discovered that the attractive, pointed roofed units can be used as low-cost vacation cottages.
Manufacturers reported nearly 10,000 shipments in 2005, an 8 percent gain over the 9,186 shipments recorded in 2004, making 2005 the strongest period in the 20-year history of the park model business, according to the Newnan, Ga.-based Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA).
“Years ago, nobody knew what park models were. It’s a different story now,” said Bill Garpow, executive director of RPTIA, which ensures that the 400-square foot units are built to nationally recognized building and safety codes.
Garpow noted that demand for park models has grown dramatically during the past three years, prompting several RPTIA-member manufacturers to expand their operations in Indiana, Texas, Arizona, North Carolina and Georgia, while enticing several other companies to enter the park model business for the first time in Kentucky and Nebraska. In the past five years alone, the number of park model manufacturers affiliated with RPTIA has more than doubled to 46, with most being clustered in northern Indiana and southern Georgia.
“Manufacturers are recognizing there’s a new niche in the RV business that’s worthy of their attention and that consumer demand for park models will grow as more and more people become familiar with the product,” he said.
National lenders are also paying increased attention to the park model business. Jacksonville, Fla.-based Triad Financial Services, for example, recently announced plans to provide indirect financing for park model dealers.
Cabela’s Incorporated, a leading retailer of hunting, fishing and outdoor products, has also broadened its product line to include fully furnished park model cabins, which can often be set up in remote locations without building permits, subject to local zoning requirements.
“The interest in recreational property for hunting and fishing is growing, and with it the need for cabin options,” said Curt Dinges, Cabela’s product manager. “Park model cabins are an affordable, versatile solution.”
Garpow said consumer interest in park models is driven by three factors: The rising cost of real estate, particularly in resort areas around the country; their relatively low cost, compared to towable or motorized RVs; and by the increasing attractiveness of the units, which often feature high-end amenities, including hardwood floors, bay windows and lofts.
Unlike mobile homes, which are a form of low-cost, permanent housing, park models are 400-square foot movable resort cottages that are designed exclusively for part-time recreational use. Typically upscale in appearance, they often include bay windows and lofts as well as walnut, oak or maple cabinetry.
Most park models are placed on campsites, which can be leased for $1,500 to $5,000 per year, depending on location. However, some consumers also place their units on private property and use them as vacation homes, subject to local zoning requirements.
“People are realizing that park models enable them to have a weekend getaway or seasonal retreat cottage for a lot less than a condo or site-built home, particularly if they want to place their unit in a resort setting,” Garpow said.
Indeed, while condos and site-built homes in resort areas typically cost $200,000 or $300,000 or more, park models generally cost less than $50,000, with the average price being in the $38,000 range.
Rising consumer demand for park models is also being supplemented by growing demand from campground operators from California to Maine, who use park models primarily to accommodate travelers who do not have RVs but want to enjoy the recreational lifestyle.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has also been purchasing park models for use as temporary housing by victims of Gulf Coast hurricanes.
For more information regarding the growth of the park model industry, photos of park model RVs and contact information for RPTIA-member manufacturers, please visit the association’s website at or contact Bill Garpow at (770) 251-2672.