Ah, the smell of grilling meat, the feel-good squeal of Katy Perry and the thwack of fly swatter on prey. As reported by the New York Times, to Tian Xuan and his 20-something friends barbecuing outside their Cherokee-brand trailer in Beijing, it felt like an idyllic scene out of a Hollywood movie — except for the insects and the industrial-strength smog that had drifted in from nearby Hebei Province.
“For Chinese, this is something like a dream,” said Tian, a 26-year-old graphic designer, as Hamburger, his English sheepdog, barked for attention. “Americans know how to live the good life.”
Welcome to the Chinese capital’s first RV park, where visitors can plant their own campers for a few days or rent a stationary model — all made in the U.S.A. — for a night of American-inspired R&R.
Having acquired many of the trappings of American consumer life, from iPhones to Buicks to closets full of Nikes and Coach bags, upwardly mobile Chinese are increasingly setting their sights on the “fang che,” or house vehicle, as they are known in Mandarin.
Although they first began appearing on domestic movie sets more than a decade ago, RV’s have only become widely available in the last three years, with more than 10,000 now rumbling along Chinese highways, according to the website 21RV.com. Distributors of European- and American-made campers say their products are selling out as soon as they hit the showroom floor. In August, at the third annual RV exhibition in Beijing, more than 500 vehicles were purchased during the four-day event, with an average sale price 300,000 renminbi, or $50,000. Industry analysts predict that sales will reach 800,000 within a decade.
“The market is erupting like a volcano,” said Wang Xudong, the deputy secretary of the China RV and Camping Association, speaking by phone as he drove a two-bed Chinese-made Great Wall camper through a desolate stretch of Inner Mongolia, his wife, mother-in-law and two kids clambering around in the back.
The New York Times reported that recreational vehicles might have middle-brow associations in the United States — the domain of retirees on perpetual holiday and methamphetamine cooks — but here in China they are seen as an upholstered magic carpet, toilet included, that provides an escape from urban congestion and tourist sites that are invariably mobbed on weekends.
“They symbolize freedom and luxury,” said Fang Liping, an English teacher, who was sharing a rented Wolf Pack-brand RV with three generations of family this month during Golden Week, the state-mandated holiday when millions of Chinese take to the road, causing colossal traffic jams and the occasional riot.
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While stuck in traffic on the Beijing-Shanghai Expressway last year, Yin Ximin decided he’d been smart to buy a recreational vehicle.
“An RV makes long trips less painful. We can lounge around, have drinks, listen to music — and use the bathroom,” aid Yin, 48, who owns an advertising firm in Beijing.
As reported by Bloomberg News, back in Beijing Yin uses his 19-foot (6-meter) motorhome from manufacturer Shandong Dream Trip RV Co. to fetch clients from the airport and schmooze on the way back into the increasingly gridlocked city, where the number of registered cars has more than tripled since 2000.
As more Chinese embrace automobile culture, foreign RV makers are expanding in China. Researcher 21RV.com estimates the number of motorhomes in China will surge from about 9,000 to 800,000 in the 10 years to 2022. The U.S. has some 9.6 million RVs on its roads, according to 21RV.
Winnebago Industries Inc., based in Forest City, Iowa, began working in 2011 with dealers in Beijing and several other cities, selling several models. Thor Industries Inc., the Elkhart, Ind.-based owner of the Airstream brand, started selling its distinctive silver camping trailers from a Beijing dealership in March.
“Foreign RV brands are still little-known to Chinese consumers,” sales manager Zhang Minrui said by phone from a Winnebago dealership in Dalian. He declined to give sales figures, though he said “demand will no doubt continue to expand in coming years as more people take self-drive vacations.”
Germany’s Dethleffs GmbH & Co. started selling imported RVs and caravan trailers this year from showrooms in several Chinese cities. The RVs can sleep six, said Surana Chen, president of its Chinese operations.
“High-end RVs are new symbols of status and success, like yachts and private jets,” said Chen. “Demand for RVs for business use has been way beyond our expectations.”
Great Wall Motor Co., China’s biggest SUV maker, and pick-up truck maker Xinkai Automobile Group Co., also have started making motorhomes and touring coaches that can be substantially cheaper than the imports.
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The second staging of All in Caravaning will take place in a new venue from June 15-17. According to a press release, more than 120 exhibitors will present their innovations and highlights for motor homes, RVs, basic vehicles and accessories at the China National Convention Center in Beijing.
All in Tuning, the professional automotive tuning exhibition, will be held concurrently. The organizers Messe Düsseldorf GmbH, its subsidiary Messe Düsseldorf (Shanghai) Co. Ltd. and the Chinese company YASN (organizers of China’s largest automobile accessories trade fair) expect over 20,000 visitors to take part.
Exhibitors at All in Caravaning 2013 will include several Chinese manufacturers such as ZOEMO. Represented by their Chinese partner companies, well-known German RV brands will participate, including Fendt, Hymer, Bürstner, Jürgens and Volkswagen along with Adria from Slovenia and KIP from the Netherlands.
The Recreational Vehicle Industry Committee (CMRV) of the China Association of Automotive Manufacturers (CAAM) acts as co-organizer. The cooperation partner is CTS Asset Management Corporation (CTSAMC) alongside China’s largest tour operator China National Travel Service (CTS). In addition, the trade fair has strong support from the Caravaning Industry Association (CIVD) from Germany, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) from the U.S. and the RV & Accommodation Industry from Australia (CRVA).
Both trade fairs benefit from the booming RV and automotive markets in China. Events showcasing international innovations and trends for this segment are attracting a lot of interest.
As an information and order platform, All in CARAVANING 2013 addresses a still young segment. Leisure vehicles will be exhibited as well as camping equipment and accessories. In addition, various campsites will present diverse vacation and leisure activities. In various seminars and lectures, the All in CARAVANING Conference (June 14–16) will deal with the different aspects of mobile leisure time.
For further information on visiting or exhibiting at All in Caravaning 2013 and All in Tuning 2013, contact Messe Düsseldorf North America, visit http://www.mdna.com.
The Sixth Beijing International RV and Camping Exhibition will be held March 21-24 in Beijing’s Fangshan district, according to a press release.
The biannual event, initiated in 2010, is currently the country’s largest and most well-known expo focused on recreation vehicles and camping. Nearly 300 exhibitors and 300,000 visitors from home and abroad are expected to attend this year’s expo.
The expo, which opens with a trade-only day, offers consumers great opportunities to explore various RVs and accessories, as well as outdoor and camping products produced by preeminent international companies.
RVs and motorhomes on display will feature units from leading brands in China and abroad, including Great Wall Motor, CenTech Specialty Vehicles and Beijing North RV, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Jayco Inc., Knaus Tabbert, Hymer and Camp-let.
The fifth show, which was held Aug. 8-12 last year received nearly 200 exhibitors and about 30,000 visitors. More than 400 RVs were shown on site and deals inked totaled around $47.6 million.
The event is hosted by Beijing Tourism Development Commission, the People’s Government of Fangshan, Beijing and China RV & Camping Association.
China’s first regulation for the recreational vehicle industry will likely be launched this year. The regulation was initiated by the Shanghai Municipal Tourism Administration and is being jointly created by tourism authorities in Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui provinces.
The standards are in the final stages of drafting and the first part, which deals with camps for recreational vehicles, will go into effect later this year, the Shanghai Morning Post reported.
The newspaper quoted an anonymous source as saying that the first batch of camps will be built in first-tier cities in Shanghai and in Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui provinces.
Shanghai has plans to build 14 caravan parks. An association for RV tourism will also be established soon.
The Shanghai Municipal Tourism Administration told China Daily that details of the draft couldn’t be revealed yet because the process is still ongoing.
Zhu Guojian, vice director at the administration’s policy and regulation department, said that all kinds of segments from the RV industry, ranging from production to sales to operations, are looking forward to regulation.
Shanghai’s website eastday.com quoted Jin Xinghua, who’s in charge of a local RV club, as saying that “the consumers still regard recreational vehicles as a transportation mode rather than a tourism concept”.
Jin said that he’s glad to see that authorities are paying attention to the industry.
The 6th Beijing International RV and Camping Exhibition will be held from March 21-24 in Fangshan, representing the largest RV show in China.
The event, held in the Beijing RV Expo Center, is hosted by the Beijing Tourism Development Commission, People’s Government of Fangshan and the Beijing China RV & Camping Association. A trade day will be held on March 21 followed by three public days.
Organizers report that exhibits will include a range of motorized and towable RVs along with RV parts and accessories, outdoor/camping products and representatives from campgrounds and parks.
The Beijing International RV and Camping Exhibition launched in 2010. Last year’s show ran from Aug. 8-12, concurrent with the China RV and Camping Rally, and featured more than 100 exhibitors and 400 RVs on site while attendance totaled around 30,000.
Airstream Inc. announced it has appointed new dealers in China, South Korea and Australia as part of the company’s global expansion strategy.
According to a press release, Airstream will manufacture and assemble the trailers at the company’s factory in Jackson Center, Ohio, but redesign the units to “fit the unique specifications of each country.” Once completed, the units will be shipped abroad to independent dealers in each market.
Airstream said its three new dealers in China, located in Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen, will service a “burgeoning population of consumers that are discovering the RV lifestyle.” As China continues to grow its campground infrastructure, Airstream expects to be a brand in demand by both traditional RVers and collectors because of its iconic American design.
Airstream’s retail expansion into South Korea and Australia allows the brand to “tap into existing RV markets and reach outdoor adventure enthusiasts looking for a well-built RV that represents the highest of quality and design.”
Airstream is already established in the UK, continental Europe and Japan, and is evaluating interest from other markets including South America, South Africa and Russia.
“The addition of these five dealers to Airstream’s global network is a key part of the company’s long-term strategy that we anticipate will generate a new group of passionate Airstreamers abroad,” said Airstream CEO and President Bob Wheeler. “Advancing Airstream’s international business with the right partners is the key to our success in foreign markets, and through the highly selective process I feel we have found great representatives in these new countries.”
In China, Airstream will operate under the name Flying Cloud by Airstream Inc., USA, and produce units no larger than 23 feet and 2.5 meters wide in accordance with regulations set by China’s department of transportation. By early 2013, each dealer across China, South Korea and Australia will have product inventory available including the Sport, Flying Cloud and International models.
Additional information on the new dealers includes:
• Shanghai, China: Ameritrade Trading Ltd. will represent Airstream in Shanghai. The dealership owner has a deep fondness for the brand, so much so that he named his son Wally after Airstream founder Wally Byam. As former president of the Harley Owners Group in Shanghai, the dealer has a unique understanding of how to market American products to the Chinese.
• Beijing, China: LanDE currently has a network of Jaguar/Land Rover dealerships and has an outstanding reputation for attention to detail and customer service in the luxury automobile sector. The Beijing retailer brings a blend of successful business background with knowledge and passion for Airstream and the lifestyle it represents.
• Xiamen, China: Smart Hero, based in the picturesque city of Xiamen, has a diversified portfolio of unique dealership businesses. They are the authorized Chinese dealer of recreational products such as Cessna aircraft, John Deere utility vehicles, and Sea Ray Yachts. The addition of Airstream travel trailers to their current lineup of these well-known brands is intended to establish Smart Hero as the marquis dealer of high-end recreational products.
• Bateman’s Bay, Australia: A&A Industries will operate Airstream Australia and specializes in providing recreational vehicles to high-end luxury travelers who want to experience long term travel on the open roads. Wheeler recently attended the grand opening of Airstream Australia as the brand’s official launch in the market.
• Seoul, South Korea: Bluebird RV is a full-service RV dealership in Seoul that retains the experience and manpower to make Airstream a key competitor in the market. The dealership’s location provides access to more than 400 commercial campgrounds and national parks.
The recent debut of the ATC Show 2012 in Beijing demonstrated the growing RV and camping industry in “China,” according to a press release.
Jointly organized by Messe Düsseldorf Shanghai Co. Ltd. and YASN International Exhibition Co. Ltd., the trade fair attracted 242 Chinese and international exhibitors displaying motorhomes, RVs and RV accessories as well campsite management and development companies. Offering 215,200 square feet of exhibit space, the event drew over 10,000 visitors. A wide range of ancillary events, such as forums, conferences and games complemented the exhibits.
Hans Werner Reinhard, deputy managing director of Messe Düsseldorf GmbH and chairman of Messe Düsseldorf China Ltd., commented: “With the first ‘All in Caravaning Annual Conference’ and the first All in Caravaning show, Messe Düsseldorf has expanded its activities in the Chinese market. I’m very pleased that our company has been part of this debut.We, as the organizers of the No. 1 trade fair for RVs and mobile homes – Caravan Salon International Düsseldorf – will do our utmost to promote our common Chinese activities to the benefit of our exhibitors, visitors and partners.”
Reinhard reported that All in Caravaning 2012 was well-received by the exhibitors and the lively atmosphere in the exhibition halls confirmed the growth of the RV industry in China. The target group of RV customers has increased from a few “RV enthusiast” to the general public.
The industry also witnessed considerable developments in infrastructure and the overall quality of industry employees and “companies from the U.S. and Europe showed great interest in entering the Chinese RV market,” according to the release.
Al Hesselbart, RV/MH Hall of Fame & Museum historian, curator and librarian, recently returned from an historic trip to Beijing, China, where he one of the keynote speakers at the 1st National China RV Rally. According to a press release, Hesselbart spoke to a large crowd on the America’s RV history and evolution.
“I was tremendously honored to be invited to speak at this historic event,” Hesselbart said. “My thanks go out to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) for referring me and to the China Tourist Bureau and the First National China Rally Organizing Committee for making me feel welcome.”
According to Hesselbart, the show’s promoters described the event as a rally, but he noted it was unique by American standards.
“The rally which was held in conjunction with the 15th FICC (Federation International des Camping and Caravanning) rally was truly an international event,” he said. “It was attended by representatives of the RVing associations and industry from countries around the world. Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Korea, Japan and more were represented and most of them referred to the USA as the most active RVing country. The U.S., however, was noticeably absent on both sides, consumer and industry, with a few US products displayed by Chinese distributors.”
Hesselbart observed in several presentations that the Chinese unit balance is over 80% motorized and 15% to 20% towable including both tent campers and travel trailers. He noted, “No fifth-wheel units were shown. Chinese highway laws limit trailers to no more than 8 meters (25 feet) in length so the trailers, as well as the motorized units, were small by U.S. standards. The most prevalent brands of imported units were Hobby and Fendt from Germany as well as a few from Landhaus and some Isuzu-based motorized rigs.
“The motorized units were primarily small diesel units built on Mercedes and Isuzu chassis with a note that Fiat chassis had previously been used but are politically banned from import to China at this time. The towable units showed a wide variety of design from some unique folding campers, through teardrops, and conventional travel trailers.”
The largest RV shown was a Jayco Melbourne Class C on a Ford chassis. It was the only motorized unit noted to have an automatic transmission, the Chinese favoring manual shifting on their vehicles, according to Hesselbart.
Hesselbart concluded, “In my opinion the event which was held at the Xiedao Resort in September, was very well run, and Millian Hu and Sarah Song, the rally organizers, are to be congratulated on a job well done.”
Al Hesselbart, RV/MH Hall of Fame & Museum historian, curator and librarian, has been invited to be one of the keynote speakers at the 1st National China RV Show.
According to a press release, the event will be held at the Xiedao Resort in Beijing from Sept. 12-16.
The show is sponsored by the FICC Asia-Pacific Commission, the China Tourism Automobile and Cruise Association and the China Tourist Attractions Association.
According to Hesselbart, he was contacted by Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) General Counsel Craig Kirby in June and asked whether or not he would consider being a guest speaker at a large RV show in Beijing. Several Chinese business people who are sponsoring the event had contacted RVIA about providing a speaker on the evolution of the RV industry in the United States.
“When I accepted, I was contacted by Ed Han, director of the RVIA Asia Project, who put me in contact with the show staff in China,” Hesselbart said.
Hesselbart intends to present an illustrated lecture on the evolution of the U.S. RV industry through its first 100 years. “I hope to amaze, educate and entertain the Chinese audience on the rich and varied history of industry products,” he noted.
Besides his duties at the RV/MH Hall of Fame, Hesselbart is a frequent speaker at RV rallies and events across the United States. This trip to China will not be his first. In 2010 he was one of four U.S. representatives who participated in the 3rd Annual Hangzhou China Outdoor Lifestyle Show in support of the growing Chinese RV industry.