I recently read an article in Outside Magazine questioning if the outdoor industry has a Millennial problem.
This article from Outside magazine touches on many issues relevant to parks and recreation. In the Northwest, in particular, recreation can be more about the jacket you wear while hiking than the actual hike itself.
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While outdoor clothing companies were racing for more high-tech options, they left out the younger generation. With no regard for Millennials, clothing and gear companies continue to offer high-end, high-priced options.
Are parks making the same mistake? Are we racing to cash in on high priced recreation?
Most park systems are moving toward cabins and expensive RV sites. Millennials do not stay in expensive cabins or drive RVs. So what happens in 10 years when Millennials will be the key demographic for parks?
It doesn’t stop with just cabins and full hookup sites for RVs, I know of at least one situation where a park had a 100% occupancy rate during the summer. As a result, the agency raised the camping fees for that park.
I get it. Parks has to run like a business. But believe me, running like a business is not about making more money this year. Running like a business means to create a WOW experience that excites someone who camps in your park now will come back later in the summer.
And next summer.
And the summer after that.
Eventually, they will bring their kids. Perhaps someday they come back in a big expensive RV. But not today. Not this summer. Not when Millennials are at the prime age to reach them.
And if you don’t get Millennials now, you stand the chance never to get them.
If we don’t make parks appealing to millennials now, they will not be visiting parks in 10 years. They have an interest in what Parks has to offer, but we are suggesting there is not a place for them in parks. Our actions suggest we are most welcoming to retirees in large RVs or families that can afford to stay in cabins.
But what are we doing in parks to suggest there is a place for Millennials?
As Tae Kim said in the Outside Magazine article – “If you just get people outside having a good time, Mother Nature takes over. They’re hooked for life.