China sits on the verge of an explosion in… caravanning
Chinese caravanner Wang Xudong is known as a ‘red ant’. He’s one of a small but determined breed of enthusiasts in China who hitch up their caravans and head off into the countryside at every opportunity. The Chinese market for such recreational vehicles is tiny compared with the UK and United States (where more than a quarter of a million are sold annually). In China the total is only about 1,000. But Wang, who also sells caravans, says there’s a boom just waiting to happen.
“Just like ten years ago when cars first entered the lives of Chinese families, it exploded like a volcano erupting, and car manufacturing has prospered,” he says. “It’ll be the same with caravans. Everyone is just waiting to see what happens. When the problems are resolved the potential customers will quickly start to buy.”
Those problems are, simply, a lack of decent roads and a dire shortage of camp sites. On top of that, caravans aren’t an established vehicle category so there’s a high probability of being stopped by the police. That’s not putting off enthusiast Dai Qihong who’s looking to buy a caravan very soon. “You don’t have to worry about where to stay when you’re driving around in an RV,” he says. “You’re much more comfortable on the journey because you don’t have to rush from one place to another by a fixed time. When you see beautiful scenery you can stop any time.”
At the moment China’s ‘red ants’ are mostly senior business people and managers with the luxury of cash and time to spare. Prices at the top of the range can be as high as £150,000. Domestic caravan makers dominate about two thirds of the market but Wang Xudong says sales will skyrocket to half a million annually in 20 years.