03.2.2021
Posted by Andrew Casden
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Astro Insights: The New American Vacation

2020 saw something of a 'perfect storm' in transportation terms: a significant reduction in public transportation, reduced automotive production, growing mobile work lifestyles among the professional class, and the obvious setback to domestic air travel.

Americans Buying Not Just Cars, but Adventure-Mobiles

THE PAST YEAR

During 2020 Americans went on a bit of a car spree, particularly in the second half of the year. In addition to just general cars and commuters, 2020 saw an interesting sub-trend in RV sales and 'overlanders' (trucks and SUVs outfitted for rugged terrain capability) - which saw some of their strongest quarterly sales in recent years [*Autoguide.com] US sales of RVs increased by over 17% year on year in August 2020, with up to 80% of purchases being made by first-time buyers (RV Industry Association, 2020). Skyrocketing demand means select manufacturers now boast year-long waiting lists.

New Forms in Automotive Fun

THE PRESENT YEAR

The renewed interest in road (and off-road) based adventuring, coupled with the rise in more remote work opportunities for the professional class, has paved the way (ha!) for a mini-boom in recreational vehicles, including trailers and mobile dwellings. Sales of SUVs have remained consistently strong through recent years [*CNBC], bolstered by a pandemic shift towards road-based travel, and a renewed interest in over-land adventuring and camping; made possible by vehicles with more serious sport utility features and capabilities, satisfying eager travellers are embracing low-contact/low-risk outdoor adventures.

Consequently, overlanding – off-grid travel to remote areas in big-rig 4x4 trucks with capacity for camping – is moving mainstream. This is stoking a surge of vehicles boasting enhanced amenities, fresh design aesthetics, and tech-enabled features and comforts. As more people become aware of overlanding, they’re choosing vehicles that blend the off-road functionality of a 4x4 with creature comforts. In 2019, German motorhome manufacturer Hymer unveiled VisionVenture, a concept RV that resembles a classic motorhome, but has off-grid capability.


A Return to the Great Outdoors - and Outdoor Lifestyles

THE FUTURE

After spending much of 2020 in lockdown, many travellers are craving outdoor, nature-soaked trips with few crowds and blissful isolation. More than half (52%) of US travellers report that they’re more likely to take an outdoor nature trip in the future than they were pre-pandemic (*Trip Advisor, 2020).

Equipped with new capable vehicles and mobility, orientation towards outdoor lifestyles has captured the imaginations of consumers worldwide. Its popularity is now likely to grow as over half of US leisure travellers say it’s the safest form of travel in a post-Covid world (*KOA, 2020).

Targeting travellers hungry for the outdoors, American trailer manufacturer Airstream’s new Portable Parks videos take consumers on virtual tours of Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. 'Glamping' (glam-camping) has also seen a significant uptick recently, with eco-friendly resorts offering yurts, private Airstreams, and tastefully rustic cabins which offer a premium experience for those less inclined to rough it.


So where does the open road take us from here? At Astro Intelligence, we think this new trend will likely continue for the next few years, as Covid closures will mean cities re-open very slowly and cautiously. There remain some significant opportunities for brands that are already in the outdoor lifestyles categories, but we'll likely see other new products and services emerge, particularly those that can enable outdoor lifestyle enjoyment more easily, such as community engagement around trip-planning, vehicle and mobile dwelling rentals, family-friendly products for camping and travel, and roadside hospitality.

Thank you for spending some time with us! Please do stay in touch and keep on the lookout for future dispatches from our Insights and Strategy outfit here at Astro.

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Photos courtesy of Stylus