Dong Linmin, 40, is planning a family vacation this winter to escape the cold and snow of Beijing, China. He said he wants to spend quality time with his family as they trek across the country to Hainan, according to a report in China Daily.
But Dong isn’t flying there, nor is he taking a train. He’s one of the rare Chinese drivers who will be exploring China in a recreational vehicle.
“A trip down to Hainan during the coldest days in Beijing is probably the best way to break in my RV,” said Dong, who bought his RV two months ago.
Dong, managing director of a Beijing logistics company, is one of only 5,000 owners of an RV in China. But as car sales grow in the nation, the central and local governments are making a push to promote the use of not only RVs, but RV camps and trailer parks. The China National Tourism Administration is encouraging more local governments to open up camps and tourist spots.
China is also looking to import RVs from the United States from, for example, Thor Industries Inc., which manufactures the homes on wheels. And last year, Beijing created a plan to install vehicle campsites in 10 suburban areas and counties around the capital. There are currently 30 such camps throughout China.
RVs in China currently cost around 200,000 to 500,000 yuan ($30,894 to $77,235) for a domestic RV, whereas imports cost as much as 1 million yuan or more.
But RVs haven’t taken off in China as the government had hoped. Wang Xudong, 29, manager of the Beijing RV Expo Center, said the high cost of tolls, lack of rest areas and the difficult license exam involved to operate an RV has deterred many Chinese from buying an RV.
“At the moment in China, there aren’t any clear regulations to RVs and trailers, but it’s still hard for Chinese drivers to get approved to operate RVs and trailers,” Wang said. “Like in the US, there is a test that one needs to pass to operate an RV and that test is much harder than the already hard driver license exam.”
Zhong Tian RVs, China’s largest domestic RV manufacturer, produces 200 to 300 RVs a year, said sales manager Ma Xuelian, 29. Ma said that government support and legislation will help the RV industry take off.
Ma also said that many imported RVs do not meet Chinese regulations and must be retrofitted to conform to national standards. Chinese regulations forbid RVs to carry natural gas for cooking onboard, which forces RV makers to come up with a different method for owners to cook food.
Another adjustment is voltage. RVs from the US come with 110-volt power outlets that are incompatible with domestic Chinese appliances.
Ma said the stringent government regulations regarding driver’s licenses make it tough for Chinese to own and operate RVs. He said that domestic makers get around the regulations by making their RVs shorter.
Ma has high hopes for the industry, but say it’s largely dependent upon the government. Ma said that any legislation that makes it easier to own and operate an RV will definitely help create a bigger market.
And though there are only 5,000 RVs in China, Wang said “this is an industry that will continue to grow, especially as cross-country sightseeing and camping increases. We expect there to be at least another 1,000 RV’s sold this year with more sales increases in the following years”.
For Dong, having an RV is a matter of money.
“My whole family enjoys the outdoors. We go camping a lot and it often became a hassle to set up a tent or find lodgings,” Dong said. “But having an RV would make everything much more hassle free, and I expect to save some money in the long run on hotels and restaurant bills.”