Editor’s Note: The following is a story from Financial Times examining the growing, but still infant Chinese RV industry, and the challenges for RVers looking to adopt the lifestyle.
Wang Xudong loves camping so much that he named his month-old twins the Chinese equivalent of “Cam” and “Ping.” And the kind of camping he loves is caravanning.
Sitting in a deck chair outside his Chinese-made motorhome parked in Beijing’s largest “RV park” – where a luxury imported American recreational vehicle can be rented – Wang talked about China’s nascent RV culture and the joys of life on the open road.
He tells a tale of urban Chinese who are worn out by work yet still happy to battle Beijing’s gargantuan traffic jams on Friday night just for the chance to wake up the next day and breathe the fresh air of an RV park.
“Even in a traffic jam, I am happy,” says Wang, who last Friday fought through an evening of fearsome thunderstorms to arrive at Beijing’s Nanshan RV park at 10 p.m. – where he immediately set about barbecuing his supper in the pouring rain.
It is all worth it, he says, for the chance to get away from it all and engage in the kind of games that grown boys everywhere love: racing around in all-terrain vehicles, grilling meat and jumping waves on the jet ski. Blink and this could be Los Angeles.
But the pot of gruel boiling in the rice cooker on Wang’s picnic table says it is not: this is China and it is not yet a kingdom of RV enthusiasts. On paper, China has about 100 caravan parks – but most of them are pretty useless, since they are neither located on tourist routes nor within reach of anything that might be called scenery.
So RV pioneers need a caravan with Chinese characteristics: a generator, a tank that can hold water for three or four days and a shovel to bury several days worth of sewage, in the absence of a US-style sewage hookup.
Then there’s Grandma: the Chinese middle class love to travel with the grandparents in tow and China’s 30 or 40 RV manufacturers are happy to make caravans to order, with facilities for Grandpa’s wheelchair.
Carting the elders around in an RV is “a form of filial piety”, says Wang, enlisting no less an ally than Confucius to support his caravanning habit.
With only 5,000 RV owners, China has a long way to go before it catches up with the U.S., the spiritual home of the RV, where there are nearly 9 million caravanners. But Wang forecasts that RVs will catch on like BMWs in China in the years to come, as a symbol of an all new Chinese way of life that embraces nature, mobility, and the right to stop and go at will – a Route 66 kind of lifestyle that could not be more different from riding a Chinese bicycle.
Liu Yujiao heads the RV sales department at one of China’s leading RV makers, Great Wall Motors. He says lots of people in Europe and America have time and money for RV travel, while the super-rich in China have money but no time.
So China’s RVs are driven by small entrepreneurs, white-collar workers and retired government officials. They buy locally produced RVs for travel or entertaining while the überwealthy sometimes buy imported caravans to impress their business contacts. Liu expects the costs of production to drop once Chinese RV makers start to enjoy the economies of scale that only a nation of 1.3 billion potential caravanners can deliver.
But that may take a while: at the moment, RVs are still so novel that when one rocks up at a motorway toll booth, staff are often baffled how to charge for it. Even getting a number plate for an RV can be hard.
Editor’s Note: The following is a blog from the Wall Street Journal exploring China’s growing fascination with RVs as evidenced by the recently completed Beijing International RV and Camping Exhibition. To read the entire article click here.
What would you do with a spare 10 million yuan burning a hole in your pocket? If you already have a house and a car – how about a “house car”- or fang che – otherwise known as an RV?
That was pretty much what some vendors had in mind at the Beijing International Recreational Vehicle and Camping Exhibition recently.
In an open field on the outskirts of the capital, dealers in motorhomes, campers and an array of off-road vehicles jostled for the attention of the curious and the well-heeled. For those not quite ready to buy – or perhaps in need of something to shake loose those extra bank notes – there were helicopter joy rides to the Great Wall for 1,800 yuan.
Maybe not every one of China’s 1.3 billion people is ready for a luxury motorhome just yet but it’s obvious that in car-crazy China automotive bling is starting to hit the road. With the expanding ranks of the rich and leisurely crowd, there is no shortage of people to mimic carefree Americans who can cruise without leaving home. All the more reason for putting a few shiny new toys on display in Beijing.
Curious onlookers filed through a Dynamax Grand Sport GT, visibly impressed, perhaps partly by the 10 million yuan (US$1.6 million) price tag after import duties are tacked on. Stretching more than 11 meters in length, it boasts a queen size bed, shower, refrigerator, sink, toilet and sofa – and it seats nine.
“There are lots of well-to-do people,” said Greddy Chan of Zhejiang-based Feishen Group, which distributes the imported luxury RVs along with its own line of golf carts and off-road vehicles. “This is just the first batch. We’ve got more on the way.”
Motorhomes are still a bit of a novelty in China, but from the looks of things, with the help of a much improved highway system, the road ahead looks clearly marked.
There could be a few speed bumps, though.
For one, the proud owner of these heavyweight homes will need a specialistdriving license (though hiring a driver is not much of a challenge for those with this kind of budget).
The Grand Sport might also have some problems with low overpasses along the way, while driving restrictions in some cities could also limit the fun. And then, there just aren’t that many camp grounds to spend the night.
Editor’s Note: The Beijing International RV and Camping Exhibition began Thursday (March 22) and runs through Sunday at the Beijing RV Expo Center. The following is a report by China Daily on growth trends in the Chinese RV industry, which is still in its industry. To read the entire report click here.
Wang Xudong is obsessive about the great outdoors. So much so that he named his week-old twins Lu and Ying, after luying, the Chinese word for camping. Allied to that love, Wang has an almost unshakable belief that the future of China’s recreational vehicle industry is bright. Rather like Mr Toad in Kenneth Grahame’s classic children’s book The Wind in the Willows, the wide open road is everything for Wang.
And he may have a good reason for being so optimistic, having witnessed the development of China’s RV industry almost from its inception.
Ten years ago, when Wang and his brother founded 21rv, the country’s first professional website dealing in RV-related news, few people in China had any idea what an RV was. In June, a convoy of 15 RVs will head to Europe on a three-month road trip.
The flow of domestic tourists in China reached 2.6 billion in 2011, a jump of 13.2% from the previous year, generating revenue of $305.5 billion, a rise of 23.6%, according to figures revealed by Shao Qiwei, head of the China National Tourism Administration, at a January conference in Guangzhou. By August, ownership of motor vehicles in China exceeded 100 million.
In the meantime, a rise in incomes in the major cities has made the future appear even more promising in a country where vehicle ownership has been rising at breakneck speed. Statistics from local authorities show that per capita GDP in Beijing and Shanghai topped $12,000 last year, approaching the levels seen in developed economies, when measured by the World Bank’s criteria.
The figures, and the nation’s increasing love of luxury brands, would seem to indicate that the time is ripe for the Chinese RV sector to expand – and there is plenty of room for growth.
The RV industry in China is in its infancy. Out of a population of 1.3 billion, ownership of the multipurpose vehicles totaled just 6,000 by the end of 2011. Conversely, the number is 8.9 million in the U.S., 6.5 million in Europe, and in Japan, 78,000.
“The figure may seem relatively small, but it has doubled and redoubled over the past few years,” said Wang Xudong, senior editor at 21rv.
For industry insiders, such a low ownership rate is a “glass half-full” situation – the low starting point means that the growth potential is massive. That’s been acknowledged by Western RV manufacturers, such as Hymer of Germany and EverGreen RV in the US, who are now targeting the Chinese market, either by employing local agents or by setting up factories with domestic producers.
The growing interest in such an undeveloped market from overseas rivals has increased the pressure on domestic players, but their optimism makes them stick with the industry in the hope of becoming pioneers.
But the path to success is likely to be bumpy, and the industry faces a number of potential roadblocks.
To view the entire article click here.
Hensall, Ontario, Canada-based General Coach Canada has entered into an agreement with Foshan Lishen Industry Ltd. of Guangzhou, China to produce and ship a new concept in leisure accommodation designed specifically for the Chinese market.
Roger Faulkner, president of General Coach Canada, recently returned from a business trip to China with an initial order for six units, and a clear understanding of market potential and requirements in the world’s fastest growing economy.
“I see enormous potential for our products in the Chinese market,” said Faulkner in a press release. “While it has a large population and increasing wealth, China is just beginning to get involved in leisure and camping activities. This agreement will create the opportunity for us to capitalize on the emerging market’
Faulkner expects General Coach will be making five different portable models for the Chinese market. All will be large enough to include living space, bathroom and kitchen, but small enough to ship in a standard 40-foot marine shipping container.
“We have a model that fits within the dimensions of a shipping container but we will be doing some specific modifications to accommodate assembly requirements in China,” Faulkner explains.
Two units were shipped to China earlier this year, and work is now underway on three prototype units which will be shipped before the end of June. Rowcliffe trucking, also located in Hensall, will transport the units from Hensall to the Port of Vancouver for shipment to Beijing, where they will be assembled and put on display.
General Coach Canada has a reputation for producing high quality recreational accommodation for distribution throughout Canada and the northern United States. Once a large producer of travel trailers, fifth-wheels, motorhomes and truck campers, General Coach is now focused exclusively on park models, which are a form of cottage. Faulkner believes his company’s well-established reputation for quality is what attracted the attention of Foshan Lishen Industry Ltd.
“They are looking to create and grow a new market that will place an emphasis on the high level of quality we offer,” says Faulkner. “Other Canadian manufacturers serving other markets can also take advantage of that need for quality. We shouldn’t be selling ourselves short on the world stage.”
Amid all the publicity surrounding MVP RV Inc.’s mammoth deal to build 30,000 motorhomes for a growing market in China comes an alternative viewpoint from none other than Chinese travel experts.
The China People’s Daily reported today (Jan. 25) in its online edition that so far the country has less than 10,000 motorhomes, most of which are used in the entertainment business for mobile dressing rooms, said Shangguan Zhoudong, a Beijing-based independent auto analyst.
“People rarely use RVs as a way to travel long distances in China, because Chinese culture does not nurture a spirit of adventure, as most people value stability,” the auto analyst stated.
The Chinese are more accustomed to driving sedans or SUVs and staying overnight at hotels while traveling, said Cui Dongshu, deputy secretary-general of the National Passenger Car Association.
This report butts heads with a statement distributed today by the Los Angeles Times and attributed to MVP RV benefactor Winston Chung. The Times reported that Chug said the Chinese government has placed a focus on developing the RV industry as a cornerstone of the Chinese ideal of the happy home life.
“A family with an RV is a family more in harmony with each other,” he said, speaking through a translator. “During vacations, people can get into the RV and enjoy quality family time.”
The biggest recreational vehicle and camping rally in China took place in Beijing’s Fangshan district over the weekend, attracting more than 100 RVs and their owners, the China Daily reported.
During the three days, more than 3,000 people attended the 2010 China RVing and Camping Rally, and about 10% of those without an RV showed strong intentions to make an order.
Niu Jie, a woman in her 20s, who came from Xi’an with her family, told a salesman at the rally she didn’t want to wait two months for an RV.
“We want to join the convoy to Europe organized by www.21rv.com next year,” she said. “My parents want an RV now because they want to try short trips within China first to gain some experience before the coming marathon journey.”
Wang Xudong, chief information officer with the Beijing-based website 21rv.com, said the success of the rally was a clear signal that there was consumer demand for RVs.
However, he said the lack of campsites is holding back the development of China’s RV market.
“Europe has more than 30,000 RV campsites and the U.S. has 16,000; we, in contrast, have only several dozen,” he said.
“Campsites are so rare in China that I always park my RV in a local farmer’s courtyard,” said Li Jibao, an RV owner in his 50s who attended the rally and who has taken his family to all parts of China except Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region in his RV since 2007.
Wang said an RV campsite requires more than just grass. “It requires water and recharging facilities and also facilities to deal with waste and to guarantee sanitation and hygiene.”
In Japan, RV campsites are usually combined with nearby entertainment facilities, such as mineral springs, fishing sites, museums and fun fairs.
China Travel Service (HK) Group Corp. has announced that it will invest heavily in building two RV areas in Miyun district, Beijing Youth Daily reported on Thursday.
Wang said RV campsites in Fangshan and Huairou districts will also be boosted within five years, which will make Beijing China’s leading RV-friendly city.
In China, there are 3,600 RVs — 500 of them in Beijing — compared with around 8.6 million RVs in the United States.
Yuan Zhijun, a salesman with Tuo Ma RV, said Metro, a domestic RV brand that has been involved in the industry for 10 years, has potential but is still in its early days.
He said the company relies heavily on other types of vehicles to keep the RV business alive.
“The business is getting better since last year. We perceive it as a promising industry and don’t want to give up easily,” Yuan said.
In Europe and the U.S., more than 80% of the RVs are cheap attached trailers, which cost about 150,000 yuan each.
However, cars produced for the Chinese market are not equipped with linking devices to connect trailers and running trailers in China requires a special driving license and number plates
As a result, Chinese RV lovers have to choose the more expensive type of RV, a motorhome.
But for the growing number of RV lovers in China, the joys of this leisure mode of travel far exceed the constraints.
Li said he loved the independence and freedom brought by the open road.
The China RVing & Camping Rally 2010 and RV Camping Show, to be held Aug. 6-8 in Beijing, is sponsored by 21RV (www.21RV.com), which provides the RVers, RV enthusiasts and camping fans a place to enjoy and share RVing and camping together.
Following is a news release provided to RVBUSINESS.com to promote the event:
“Holding this rally is to sound the industry’s horn assembly, to gather the RVers, RV lovers, campers dispersed in different regions of China, who are at this moment in little quantity, RV manufacturers and sellers miles apart having little chance to be together to talk deeply in detail together, to present the RV and camping industry in group in front of the public in an unprecedented large scale. So that the industry will be more known and get more attention from the public and the government, further more, make the whole industry develop more quickly and better, and finally the complete and mature industry chain formed.
“What should be pointed out is that the RV and camping show during the rally is different from the ordinary ones. Visitors here can not only see the RV products and camping goods, but also look at how people use those products and what RVing and camping life can be. Show in this way is indeed the first time ever and it’s a wonderful chance for the enterprises to let their products and brands known. Until now, it’s estimated that there will be tens of RVs shown.
“Meanwhile, 21RV will organize a seminar for the RV manufacturers, sellers to analyze the market, talk about and solve the difficulties the industry faces, share producing and sale experience, exchange the understanding and realization of the industry, forecast the future of the industry. What’s the most important, to let the companies know each other, complement each other’s advantages, and get better cooperation.
“Right now, RV and camping companies lack of contact and interchange. Each of them is look for development alone. It’s known that the development of an industry can not be realized unless the strength is unified. At present, RV and camping industry doesn’t receive enough attention from the society. Transportation laws and regulations are obscure, trailers cannot get plate easily, campgrounds and RV parks are rare to see. Chinese RV and camping industry has quite a long way to go to catch the ones in Europe and the U.S.. It’s believed that this rally will gather most of the people from this industry to form a large team, to make people realize and know and get into this kind of travel sooner. So this industry can grow bigger, more and more people can enjoy RVing and camping, the enterprises can enjoy the development earlier.
“This rally will be held in Beijing RV Exposition Center, which is a store that has all kinds of RVs, RV parts and accessories, and camping goods and equipments. The main area for this rally is more than 200 acres. It has quiet and beautiful environment, is covered by grass and trees. People can fish in more than four pools. In order to meet life needs during the show, 21RV has reached agreement to hotels and restaurants to provide services of high standard to the attendees.
El Monte RV has a prominent role in adopting nationwide standards for RV travel and tourism in China, according to a Chinese news release.
The release comes on the heels of a visit to China by El Monte’s Joe Laing, part of a U.S. delegation visiting the 3rd Annual Hangzhou China Outdoor Lifestyle Show March 4-7 and six months after a sizable Chinese delegation visited the National RV Show last December in Louisville, Ky.
Laing was invited to be part of a 10-person forum addressing Chinese media and government officials on concerns related to the establishment of a viable recreational vehicle industry and its related lifestyle in China. The international group was coordinated and hosted by N-Tours International, a tour promotion firm based in Beijing.
According to this week’s news release, China is to formulate a set of standards for motor touring centers, the China Automobile High-tech Industrialization Commission (CAHC) told a press briefing at the State Council Information Center in Beijing on Saturday (May 29).
“The domestic motoring travel market is huge, with as many as 200 million motorists touring every year, and more than 5,500 service centers scattered nationwide,” Chen Dongsheng, secretary general of CAHC, told the press.
“But the service centers lack adequate infrastructure and common service standards,” he added. “We are taking the initiative to formulate standards to regulate travel centers and create a comfortable environment for motorists.”
Chen said the draft standards would be ready by September. They will cover 11 areas, including hospitality, caravan (RV) sites, service facilities and security.
The standards will apply to automobile clubs, rescue services, parking sites, reception centers and vehicle after-sales services. “We are inviting them to work together to develop the standards,” Chen told China.org.cn.
El Monte RV, a U.S.-based rental company, will help draft the standards. “Recreational vehicles represent a new type of lifestyle in China. You can just drive your house around without worrying about booking accommodation,” said Yang Lin, deputy secretary general of CAHC and general manager of El Monte RV, China.
“Recreational vehicles have great potential in China. We plan to invest about 200 million yuan ($30 million U.S.) to build RV towns where motorhome drivers can stay while touring,” Chen said.
An intelligent booking service platform will also be set up. “With a click of the mouse, drivers will be able to get any information they need, and thus will save them both time and money.” Chen told China.org.cn.
The Chinese have jumped head first into accommodating the growing RV industry.
“What we got from the show is that there are a lot of Chinese people interested in RVing,” Laing told RVBUSINESS.com upon return from his tour. “The question remains how that interest will work itself out. Everyone is unsure how the Chinese RV industry is going to further evolve. The thought I most expressed to them is they should use the American RV industry as a framework or guideline. We have the most successful RV market and the best RV market in the world.”
China has an existing camping population, but it is nearly all tent camping and the existing campgrounds are organized for tenters only. The country also has a selection of national parks and other camping attractions. However, there are less than 50 RV campgrounds in all of China and no network of retailers or RV support businesses or publications.
For the first time in the history of the National RV Trade Show, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) accommodated a large contingent of RV industry representatives from China.
During a reception Tuesday night (Dec. 1) in a Kentucky Exposition Center ballroom in Louisville, Ky., approximately 90 Chinese delegates networked with some of the major U.S. RV manufacturers, according to Jim Sheldon, RVIA chairman.
Tables were set up in the ballroom for the Chinese delegates to visit the U.S. company representatives on a one-to-one basis.
“The visitors from China represented a wide swath of interest, from those who could provide materials to U.S. manufacturers to those interested in establishing joint ventures to those interested in importing product into China,” he said.
The Chinese brought their own interpreters for the face-to-face event. “Some were more fluent in English than others and sometimes it was a challenge to communicate with the Chinese visitors,” he added.
“Following that, I observed the Chinese visitors revisited the displays on Wednesday,” Sheldon said. “From my standpoint, I had the sense the Chinese are serious about promoting the RV lifestyle in their country.”
Sheldon said he suspects the reception will set a pattern for future shows.
The face-to-face meeting this week was the latest in a series of contacts between RV industry representatives from the two countries. RVIA President Richard Coon and other industry officials have made several visits to Chinese trade fairs and conventions showcasing the RV industry in recent years.