This isn't your grandfather's campground.
With pickleball courts, dog washing stations, a gym, pool and WiFi, a group of investors is hoping to draw tourists and remote workers to what they call a "luxury recreational vehicle resort" set to open in booming New Braunfels.
The Canopy resort will have 295 RV lots with fiber connectivity at each site, a 6,000-square-foot clubhouse, playground, six bathhouses, laundry facilities, walking trails, large televisions, barbecue pits and a convenience store with firewood, snacks, beer and wine. There will be space for events, including holiday-themed programming.
The 44-acre property is between Interstates 10 and 35, near Schlitterbahn water park and Guadalupe River and within an hour's drive of San Antonio and Austin, said Dick McCaleb, one of the owners.
Rates are still being set for short-term stay vacationers, which McCaleb said range from $80 to a little over $100 a night in the area. Rates for those staying several months will start at $750 or $775 per month depending on the type of lot. Canopy plans to begin welcoming monthly guests on April 15 and open the full resort later this spring.
"New Braunfels is booming, Seguin is booming, you're close enough to San Antonio and Austin," McCaleb said.
He and Mark Bauer of RFM Commercial, a San Antonio-based commercial real estate firm, and Brian Brady, another local in the real estate investment and development business, teamed up to open Canopy. They got interested in the RV sector in 2017 and started touring RV parks within an hour or two of San Antonio.
Most were full, seemingly regardless of their quality, and vehicles were getting larger, McCaleb said. Some owners were retirees who had sold their homes and bought RVs to travel around the U.S., some hit the road when the pandemic prompted their employers to change remote-work policies and some were families on vacation.
"During COVID, the RV industry was just absolutely crazy," McCale said.
RV sales and campground reservations soared as people grew tired of being cooped up indoors, worried about contracting the virus and adjusting to working and schooling remotely decided to spend more time outside. Investors sought to capitalize on that demand, plugging their money into opening and upgrading RV parks.
RV shipment data shows the surge: 430,412 RVs were shipped in 2020, a record 600,240 RVs were shipped in 2021 and 493,268 RVs were shipped in 2022, according to the RV Industry Association.
A recent survey commissioned by the group indicates exploring the outdoors, flexible work and school options and lower cost in comparison to other types of trips are the main draws for RV travel. Young people are driving some of that demand, with more millennials and Generation Z wanting to spend money on experiences instead of possessions.
But RV shipments are expected to decline this year, according to a forecast ITR Economics prepared for the association.
“ITR Economics’ forecast reflects current market conditions — an uncertain economy, high inflation, and rising interest rates. This is offset by encouraging reports of strong attendance at retail RV shows and traffic on RV dealer lots — both indicating that consumer interest in RV travel and camping has not diminished,” RV Industry Association President and CEO Craig Kirby said in a statement. “While we expect shipments to move lower through the first half of 2023 compared to 2022, we see the pace of that decline easing and beginning to recover in the latter part of the year.”
Other operators in New Braunfels and the Hill Country are also focusing on perks.
At Sun Retreats Texas Hill Country, guests renting RV lots or cottages can access a heated indoor pool, hot tub, sauna, fitness center, game room and playground.
Horseshoe Ridge RV Resort has a pool, jacuzzi, playground, fitness center, dog park and fishing ponds, with "glamping" sites coming soon, according to its website.
Treeside RV Resort has yard games, dog parks, a fitness center, a dog park and wash, a heated swimming pool and a club house with games on about 45 acres. Pickle ball courts, an adults-only swimming pool and a playground are in the works, its website indicates.
The Canopy owners considered a variety of sites for their development and bought the Lakeside Pass property about two and a half years ago because of its New Braunfels location, size, setting and proximity to San Antonio and Austin. It's near two major highways but far enough to keep noise at a minimum. A green belt with pecan trees offers shade, McCaleb said.
"We were looking for a peaceful setting," he said.
Twenty-five-foot-wide asphalt roads wind through the property to provide space for large vehicles and each pedestal has water and sewer service, parking for two cars and a patio with a picnic table. Canopy will also have gates for security and guests will get a card, similar to a hotel, for access, McCaleb said.
He expects an even split initially between long-term and short-term guests, in part because home-building has slowed in recent months and prices are higher compared with one or two years ago.
"The desire is to eventually end up with a resort that is predominantly short-term guests. But there's a tremendous demand for long-term spaces right now," McCaleb said.