When Yury Yelashkin first encountered a camper van on holiday in Germany, it seemed like a somewhat alien concept.
“You know when you see a yacht or something, and there is a mental barrier saying ‘That’s not for me’ — you just don’t associate yourself with it,” he said. “Then when I tried it — it was eye opening.”
Since then, according to a Moscow Times report, he has taken his family on RV trips all over Europe and the United States.
Smitten with vacationing on the road, three years ago he decided to bring his newfound passion to Russia, founding one of the country’s first specialist caravan and recreational vehicle dealerships.
Since then he has sold “about 150 vehicles,” and says he is seeing sales grow each year.
Andrei Artyukhov, president of the country’s small Caravan League, says his nascent organization has no more than 1,000 members across the entire country.
“It’s still quite a young sector compared to Europe or North America, but in the past two or three years we’ve been seeing more and more interest,” he said.
The market profile is quite distinct. “If in Europe and North America typical customers are pensioners, here it is the new middle class — people in their 30s or 40s, usually looking for something they can do with the family,” Yelashkin said.
But it is not just the middle classes. He said his first customer was a high-ranking government official who needed a mobile office, though he asked The Moscow Times not to name him. He claimed a string of others in government have adopted the mobile-home concept too as a work tool.
“We have all sorts in our club — from middle-class families to hunters and fishermen,” Artyukhov said.
But one thing holding back the sector is the lack of the extensive networks of purpose-built campsites that provide parking places, water and waste disposal facilities that support the pastime in Europe and North America.