Jon Gray, CEO of RVshare, joins Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christoforous to discuss the company's growth and outlook post-pandemic.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Welcome back. The RV industry continues to see gains amid the pandemic-influenced road trip boom we've been seeing. While the travel industry has seen vacation hotspots closed or restricted, rentals and sales of recreational vehicles have revved up.
Joining me now is Jon Gray. He is CEO of RVshare, which is the first peer-to-peer rental marketplace for RVs. John, good to have you here. I know that last year was a record one, in terms of RV rentals for you. What is 2021 shaping up to look like?
JON GRAY: So 2021's off to a good start as well. I mean, last year, you know, when the pandemic set in, our business fell off, just like pretty much every other travel business, and vacations were put on hold. We dealt with thousands of cancelations, pivoted our business to focus on bookings for first responders, for, you know, medical trips and things of that nature. And then soon after that, as we got into the summer months, you know, bookings were more than triple the year before. And that's something that, you know, shows the resilience of people wanting to travel and the desire that they have to do it. And we've seen the same thing kind of carry into 2021 so far-- really strong numbers for what is, effectively, our offseason, in January and February, and expecting a really strong spring break as well, based on what we're seeing so far.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: For people who are not familiar with your business model, talk to us about how this works and how you make money. Do you charge the person who's going to put their RV up for rental? Do you charge them a listing fee? Does the person renting the RV have to pay you anything?
JON GRAY: Sure, so we work very similarly to an Airbnb or a Vrbo, but just for RVs. We charge both sides of the marketplace but only if a transaction takes place. So it's free for someone to come on the site and look for an RV. Or as an RV owner, if you want to turn your RV into a second source of income, you put it on the site, and you don't pay us anything, unless we drive you bookings. And then if a booking does take place, then we capture revenue from both sides of the marketplace.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: And I know you're familiar with that sort of strategy because of your time at HomeAway. Tell me how much somebody should expect to pay for a rental of one of these RVs. And I'm sure they go up to being quite, quite expensive as you sort of move into the Cadillac of RVs, but what's sort of the average?
JON GRAY: Sure. The average is about $1,000 a week, and the average RV that you're getting is going to sleep about five people. But your point is correct there. You can get a pop-up camper that's, you know, less than $50 a night. You can get a luxury motor coach that's $1,000 a night. We really have an incredibly broad range with over 100,000 RVs on the platform. But yeah, for an average, about $1,000 a week.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: You know, what if you've never driven an RV before? And I know a lot of people, during this pandemic has been their first time with real exposure driving one of these recreational vehicles. But what if you're listening to this segment right now, you're interested, but you've never driven one? Do you need a special class of license to do that, and what about insurance? How-- does your regular automobile insurance cover you for the RV?
JON GRAY: So there's no special license required. And when you book through RVshare, we have a partner who provides insurance that you can purchase right in the checkout when you're booking your RV on RVshare. So we do make that as easy as possible. I would say-- and you know, I was fairly new to driving RVs when I came to this business-- it's much easier than you think it is. And for people who are just not going to get over the idea of driving a big vehicle but still want to do our RVing, we also offer delivery. So we can deliver an RV to a campground where you want to stay, and you can just kind of walk in and have, you know, a hotel room wherever you want to be.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: I love it. I love that. Really-- talk about door-to-door service. What happens, though, to demand once, you know, we really open up in a meaningful way, once people feel more comfortable flying once again? You know, what do you expect to happen to demand for what you're selling?
JON GRAY: Sure. So look, I think it's a complex question. I think-- you know, I quit thinking I was good at projecting things about March of last year, like I think everyone else did. But I will say, I feel like this year has pressed Fast Forward on adoption and consideration in our category by about five years. And a lot more people are aware of RVing as a category. A lot more people are aware that this is a better way to do a road trip, that it's a better way to see national parks.
You know, something like 60 million Americans go camping each year, and most of them choose to sleep on the ground. This is a much better way to do that. You know, you get to bring a bed, a kitchen, a bathroom with you, and those are things that last long after a pandemic. An appreciation of nature and a connection with everything that's outside, I think, stays on.
The other thing that we're seeing is, you know, workplaces have become more flexible. Education has become more flexible. And I see that as a long-term tailwind for the travel industry as a whole. You know, it will help RVshare specifically, but it helps the travel industry as a whole.
People are going to take more trips. They're going to continue to be focused on value because their budgets are unlikely to change that much. But the ability to take your work with you and spend time in a place that's not your office is something that's just great for the travel industry.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Do you think that higher gas prices might put a dent in demand? I mean, we're starting to see those prices at the pump inch higher, as we see the price for crude oil move up. Do you think that that will have some sort of-- will there be a correlation there?
JON GRAY: It's certainly possible that there'll be some correlation there, but what we've seen in the past, as fuel prices go up, we've seen trips get shorter and, you know, maybe more of destination-type trips. Like, one of the things, you know, you mentioned earlier is that, you know, people might be more comfortable flying. That's great. We used to do a lot of bookings for people who would fly in to Las Vegas, for example, rent an RV, and take it to the Grand Canyon. We do basically none of those bookings right now.
So, you know, as things like that come back on, I think you'll see more people use RVs differently. Music festivals didn't happen this year. That's usually a huge line of business for us. So you'll see use cases like that come back up. You might see less cross-country road trips if the gas prices continue to go higher, but I would still expect RV use to be high, just the-- people will be more thoughtful about the length that they drive them.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Yeah, good point. I didn't think about it. You can to your road trip, right? Sounds good. Jon Gray, CEO of RVshares, thanks so much. Enjoy your weekend.