The three-day trade mission to China, organized by the RV Industry Association, concluded with the U.S. delegation making a trip to the Taihu Lake RV Camping Park in Suzhou. The campground, which is situated on a large lake, has over 90 campsites. The group was able to tour the campground and see a multitude of domestic, European and U.S. products throughout.
The site was at overflow capacity during the visit as it hosted an annual “Camping Fest,”- a combination of an RV owner rally, manufacturer’s exhibits, aftermarket products, outdoor activities, music and dance performances and more.
In addition to the fascinating opportunity to look at different RV types and designs, the delegation was able to sit down with RVers from China and discuss their feelings on the different styles of units from the US, China and Europe. These campers discussed and compared how U.S. units present a more home-like appeal with lots of space and shared opinions on the quality of products from different countries. U.S. products were commonly referenced as more durable and the preferred choice for most of the active RVers throughout the campground. The modern designs of European units along with its light interiors were also noted as favorable features.
Despite being over 6,000 miles away, RVers in China have a parallel passion for the outdoors, the freedom to go anywhere at any time, spending relaxing time with friends and family and the ability to be a digital nomad and work from the road - just as many do stateside.
“Our walk around in the campground with the rally participants was the highlight of my trip,” said Paul Cassidy, senior vice president of business development for Erwin Hymer Group North America. “It was great to feel the energy from the campers and to recognize that they are pioneers of outdoor life in China. It could be compared to the early days of the RV industry in North America when it was a relatively small group of people who forged the way for what is now a huge industry.”
(The American delegation was invited to join a group of RVers who were tailgating)
China currently has around 460 campgrounds in operation around the country and plans on reaching its initial goal of 2,000 by the end of 2020.
It should be noted that diving into the business of campgrounds doesn’t come without its challenges. It can be difficult to succeed in the campground business in China for several reasons. First, and most importantly, there are no schools providing campground management training; campground operators typically learn as they go. Second, the high cost of land acquisition and the land use restrictions are a heavy financial burden on the campgrounds before even making the investment into facilities. Third, the lack of an ongoing consumer education program has slowed the development of the RV lifestyle. Despite these obstacles, the campground the delegation visited is financially successful.
“It was evident that the RVing lifestyle in China is still new and unknown to most Chinese, however, those that we met at the campground had embraced the lifestyle and seemed thrilled to be RVing,” said Dave Schutz, senior vice president OEM RV sales for Dometic North America. “It gave them an outlet to get away from the cities and towns and to meet new people that had similar interests in RV travel.”
The delegation left China with an understanding of the current state of the market, an appreciation of the potential development in the Chinese market, the resources available to RV Industry Association members and made many friends along the way.
If you would like to see what a Chinese RV Rally and campground experience looks like, view a video of the event here.