October 2, 2013
While travelling long-term in an RV has long been part of the lifestyle landscape in countries such as the USA and Australia … other ‘sleeping giants’ are just waking up to the possibilities.
The biggest giant of them all – China – is foremost among them.
According to the South China Morning Post, recreational vehicles sales are going through the roof. A few years ago, there were only a few thousand RVs in China but now the total number might reach tens of thousands, although no official figure has been given.
RVs have been on the mainland market for more than two decades, but they had long been regarded as a luxury purchase for niche buyers because of their high prices and the country’s lack of supporting facilities such as camping sites. Even as the RV market has matured, there are still few sites offering camping with water, electricity and drainage facilities.
Li Xiang , a semi-retired businessman in Guangdong who has towed a caravan in China for more than two years, says those sites that are in service often charge a lot, which makes it cheaper to stay in a hotel.
“It is embarrassing, but most of the time I park in a hotel’s parking lot,” he said. “I dare not stay out in the wild with the entire family aboard for fear of being robbed.”
Nonetheless, buyers are voting with their wallets. Last month, a four-day RV show in Beijing attracted 40,000 visitors, and more than 500 vehicles were sold.
Li Mengsha, a sales consultant with Beijing Camper RV, told the South China Morning Post the level of interest was ‘crazy’.
“Many vehicles came straight to the show from seaports,” she said. “Most were sold before I had a chance to step inside for a look … and I am a sales agent, for heaven’s sake!”
When the first mainland RV and caravan show was held in 2010, there were only about 40 vehicles on exhibition.
The RV boom can partially be explained by rising middle class incomes, a new generation of retirees who are more amenable to the lifestyle, and climbing housing prices.
The South China Morning Post reports that most buyers wanted caravans made in Europe or the United States, and that overseas factories has not been able to keep up with the demand. After placing an order, consumers in China often have to wait more than a year, if not two, for delivery.
So, how can this burgeoning, and potentially massive, demand be met?
“The only solution seems to be setting up factories in China,” said Bai Long, a sales consultant with Flying Cloud Beijing, which distributes the Airstream brand. “But that would also be difficult, because many procedures in RV manufacturing are done by hand, which require years, if not decades, of work experience … RVs made by Chinese workers will not match imported ones anytime soon.”
Would you like to do a ‘Big Lap’ of China in your RV? Do you think future ‘cheap’ Chinese-made caravans and motorhomes could make the grey nomad lifestyle more popular here in Australia? Comment below.