The lure of the open road

David Whalen
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Summers here and RV sales are sizzling as vacationers

More and more people are heading to the open road with the purchase of recreational vehicles. Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Rose Farrell loves the freedom of hitting the open road in a recreational vehicle (RV).

Its different from having a cabin because youre moving, said the retired St. Johns principal. You can pull in anywhere.

She and her husband, Jim, a fire investigation contractor, have been RVing for more than six years. They are part of the Newfoundland and Labrador division of the Canada-wide Explorer RV Club.

The Farrells say their group, made up of more than 40 senior couples, travels around the province with the aim of contributing to as many local charities as possible.

We keep our dollars in the province, Jim said. You dont have to leave Newfoundland to see beautiful things.

According to a new Statistics Canada study, RV sales in Canada grew by 13.6 per cent from 2005 to 2006 the second-biggest growth rate of any form of retail sales during that period.

Home furnishings was No. 1.

Last year, RV sales in Canada were a record $17.4 billion.

RV dealers in St. Johns say the national trend is apparent here.

Dennis Spracklin, general manager of Mount Pearl RV dealership Coastal Marine and Recreation, attributes much of the sales increase to retiring boomers and younger families seeking cheaper vacations.

More and more people are participating in outdoor activities, Spracklin said. Basically, consumers are looking at RVing as an affordable vacationing alternative.

Dave Maloney, co-owner of Maloneys RV and Golf Centre in Paradise, says retired or semi-retired couples like the Farrells are becoming the exception in RV sales. Most of his customers are younger though equally enthusiastic couples.

Less than 25 per cent of our sales are from retired couples, he said.

While dealers say RV prices have remained fairly constant in the past few years, a strong dollar and low interest rates have led more consumers to consider purchasing.

Dave Petten, manager of the Islander RV dealership at Paddys Pond, says low interest rates mean buyers can afford to finance their RVs over longer periods.

Taking to the open road

According to Go RVing Canada, more and more Canadians are eschewing vacations that entail air travel and hotel costs in favour of RVing excursions.

People are really keen on the RVing lifestyle, said Catherine Fortin Major, a public relations consultant with Go RVing. Were seeing people from all kinds of backgrounds and ages picking up RVing and seeing theres a lot of value in RVing versus a traditional vacation.

Paul Collins, a glass technician from Goulds, has been RVing for just two months, but says he and his family of four have quickly grown to love it.

If we wanted to go somewhere else we could just hook up to our RV and travel. We werent stuck trying to find a cabin, he said.

Petten says todays RVs, which now average more than 30 feet in length, offer all the amenities of home.

Theres people with three TVs, fireplaces, washers, dryers. Theres not much left (thats) not in the trailers these days, Petten said.

I swear if you could get a swimming pool in one, theyd buy it. They cant get them big enough.

Second one

Collins is already on his second vehicle after just two months of RVing.

We went and bought a 21-footer and found that that wasnt big enough, so we turned around and traded it in and bought a bigger one, he said.

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador division, Explorer RV Club, Statistics Canada Golf Centre

Geographic location: Canada, Newfoundland, Paradise Goulds

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