Recreational vehicles gaining ground among China's rich elderly

May 02, 2014 17:07
Recreational vehicles are becoming popular in China, particularly among the wealthy senior citizens. Photo: Motorhome China

Taking advantage of the long May Day holiday, many people in mainland China embarked on road trips this week, either to meet up with friends and relatives or just to enjoy the popular tourist spots in the country. Cities such as Beijing which have many heritage attractions have seen hordes of travelers, choking the local transport systems.

The Forbidden City, the former imperial palace in the heart of Beijing, is said to have sold 22,000 tickets in just an hour after it opened on Thursday. Buses are crowded and roads and subway systems in many cities across the nation are groaning under the weight of traffic.

In this maddening situation, how does one travel comfortably and keep peace of mind? The answer, for a growing number of people, is recreational vehicles (RVs).

Travelling in an RV means one can avoid the flood of people, have a flexible schedule, stop worrying about hotel room bookings, etc. In short, a traveler can be his own master, though one still has to contend with the traffic when entering or exiting cities.

Qingdao is one of the leading cities in China RV culture. The city is building a campsite mainly for RVs. This week, local authorities are hosting a luxury RV show, putting on display the nation's top luxury recreational vehicle -- a 1.58 million yuan (US$252,000) paradise on wheels.

Besides the standard facilities like toilet, cooking stove and sink that an ordinary RV possesses, this luxury model features a queen-size bed and a red wine cabinet.

RVs were once seen as luxury items at mainland auto shows, but demand is climbing as people are changing their lifestyle. RV manufacturers are optimistic about the industry's future in China. As the first generation of modern entrepreneurs prepares to retire, a new group of people with plenty of money as well as time is taking charge at many companies, offering an opportunity to RV makers.

A RV manufacturer in Qingdao told Qingdao News that its customers mainly comprise three groups -- senior citizens, car lovers and enterprises. Of the three, the elderly are said to be the biggest purchasing group. According to the manufacturer, senior citizen buyers accounted for 60 percent of the firm's total RV sales last year, and that they spent 400,000 yuan on average to buy a vehicle.

In Western countries like the US, the RV lifestyle is already very popular among senior citizens. Some retirees even sell their houses and travel in RVs all year long.

In China, the RV culture is still in infancy but is growing fast. But as people hanker for home-like amenities, the supporting infrastructure like campgrounds with water and electricity hook-ups is far from adequate. Only when more travelers begin to travel in this way, will the supporting facilities come into place.

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EJ Insight writer