How the Labor Shortage Will Impact Summer Road Trips in the U.S.

Jul 1, 2022 | News

How the Labor Shortage Will Impact Summer Road Trips in the U.S.

From RV manufacturing to tourist destinations, the worker shortage is affecting the travel industry across the U.S

By Sara Sheehy

The recent worker shortage is impacting nearly every industry in the U.S. As you get ready for upcoming summer camping trips, you might be wondering if and how these shortages will affect your experience before, during, and after your trip.

Let’s take a look at what the national worker shortage means for the outdoor industry.

Labor Shortage 101

A labor shortage is when industries are looking to hire workers and can’t find them, either because they’re unable to successfully recruit staff or because there aren’t any people to recruit. In our current job market, both of those factors are coming into play.

Green and orange sign for park host, hanging on a wooden fence

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are around 11.4 million jobs available in the U.S. and about 6 million unemployed workers. In very basic terms, that means that even if every unemployed worker found a job, there’s still a need for 5.4 million more people to fill the remaining positions. 

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During the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing economic recovery, many workers have taken the opportunity to leave their positions in favor of another that’s less stressful and higher paying. In particular, there’s a shift away from service-based jobs that often require in-person attendance and have lower wages. Much of the travel and tourism industry, including RV-focused amenities like campgrounds, fall into this category. 

So, what does it look like when there isn’t enough staff?

Worker Shortage Impacts on Campgrounds

“Last year was a tiring season,” says David Basler, Senior Vice President of Membership and Marketing at the National Association of RV Parks and Campground (ARVC). “There was more pressure than normal on campground owners and managers. Everyone had to step in and do three jobs.”

a person stands outside of a car parked at the entrance to a campground surrounded by green hills
Photo: Andriy Blokhin /

Many campground owners and staff will be facing the same challenges in 2022. ARVC’s 2022 Trends and Insights Report states that in 2021, campgrounds saw the biggest impact in labor shortages on their grounds and maintenance work, followed by the front desk and welcome staff. 

This could mean that during your stay, campsites might not be perfectly manicured and office hours may be shorter than normal. It could also impact amenities such as pool hours or on-site activities. 

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“But like last year, they’ll work through [staff shortages] and make it work for the campers,” continues Basler. The report also forecasts an increase of 81,000 new campsites in public and private campgrounds in the next 12 months—a welcome boost in inventory for RVers everywhere.

Worker Shortage Impacts on Manufacturing and Maintenance

In 2021, 86 percent of all RVs in the U.S. were produced in Indiana. Chances are that your camper rolled off an assembly line in or near Elkhart, Indiana, the center of RV manufacturing in the U.S. 

While it’s convenient to have so many manufacturers and suppliers in one place, it also makes for a tight employment market, says Monika Geraci, spokesperson for the RV Industry Association (RVIA). “They have a very low unemployment rate in the area,” she shares, which can make finding enough workers a challenge. 

Inside a RV Maintenance Garage

Despite this, a record 600,000 RVs were built in 2021, up 20 percent from the previous record high set in 2017. With supply chain issues starting to dissipate, the RVIA is forecasting another strong year for RV manufacturing. “It’s really impressive, considering the labor and supply chain issues of the last 2 years,” continues Geraci.

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While the record manufacturing is helping to alleviate a backlog of demand for RVs, campers and dealers are still reporting long wait times for RVs. Some are frustrated by new RVs that arrive with broken, missing, or incorrectly installed components. Fixing these issues, which often fall under warranty service, can take weeks or months, depending on the availability of replacement parts and RV technicians—both of which continue to be in short supply. 

A shortage of RV technicians impacts not only new RVs in need of service, but older RVs as well. Do you have upcoming RV maintenance or service needs? Schedule now for a date in the future to make sure that you can get your rig serviced in a timely manner. 

Worker Shortage Impacts on Tourist Destinations

Worker shortages don’t just impact campgrounds and manufacturing, but the entire tourism industry, too. Across the U.S., restaurants, tour operators, events, shops, parks, and most public-facing service-based businesses are affected by the shortages as well. This can have far-reaching impacts, especially in destinations that welcome a high number of tourists each year.

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Longer wait times and a decrease in business hours or services is widespread in tourist destinations, though for the most part, travelers are taking these in stride. Like business owners and staff everywhere, RVers are working through the inconveniences and making the most of their experiences. 

If you get frustrated this summer, try to remember that businesses are doing their best in a challenging time. Take a deep breath, share a kind word, and look for destinations that attract fewer tourists to help alleviate crowding in popular spots.