The population of South Mississippi is about to grow significantly as RV enthusiasts from across the country begin their annual migration south for winter, bringing business to the area’s restaurants, casinos, and local RV parks. In fact, the RV industry has an estimated $269 million economic impact on Mississippi.
“About the first of October the snowbirds start coming through,” said resident James Lee. His family owns Indian Point Campground in Gautier, which spans 186 acres and has 200 sites, 36 cabins, two swimming pools, and access to deep water all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. According to Lee, the RV park is fully occupied for the majority of the year.
The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) estimates that across the country, there are as many as 30 million RV enthusiasts. According to a 2011 study, the typical RV owner is 48 years old, married, and has an annual household income around $62,000. However, in South Mississippi in early October, nearly 100% of RV campers are seniors. RV park owners say that the older crowd is drawn to the area because of low prices, casinos, and the vast natural landscape ideal for fishing and bird-watching.
“What we like about it is the people we meet,” said Carlie Fears, an RV owner who traveled to Mississippi from Missouri with her husband and two English bulldogs.
At the Gulf Haven Campground on the Mississippi coast, there are plenty of activities for seniors to enjoy — Saturdays are movie night, Monday is game night, Wednesdays they hold a potluck dinner. The park offers exercise programs and craft projects, and the local senior center is directly behind the campgrounds.
According to Wesley Stinchcomb, the general manager of the Camping World retailer in Biloxi, low gas prices have helped keep the RV industry consistent. Then again, he noted, people who own RVs aren’t all that worried about gas mileage.
An RVIA report revealed that gas prices would have to quadruple for RVers to lose their economic advantage over alternative methods of travel.