Pandemic fuels RV boom in China

Self-sufficient and a freedom to go anywhere, those characteristics make RV travel increasingly appealing to Chinese travelers. (Photo: CFP)

It's just another day for the Lis who have lost count of the times they've been on the road. So far the family from Beijing have traveled 90,000 kilometers by RV, across 31 provinces and regions, and 32 countries.

The Lis recreational vehicle has a living room area with a sofa, a kitchen and a bathroom. There is a vertical bed as well as one perched above the driver's seat.

The self-sufficiency and freedom offered by the RV travel lifestyle increasingly appeal to Chinese travelers.

"Because of the pandemic, we can't go anywhere. Recreational vehicles give us the freedom to go anywhere," explained Fan Lina, an RV traveler. "We don't need to worry about booking hotels or getting up late. It gives us a lot of flexibility and saves a lot of money."

Last year, there were 27 million internet searches for RV travel on Chinese websites, 48 percent more than in 2019. The sales of recreational vehicles hit another record, almost 70,000 units last year.


China now has about 1,400 large RV campsites, and the number continues to rise. Campsite owners have even started to offer holiday packages tailored for RV travelers.

Most RV owners are aged between 50 and 65, according to published research. But the last two years have seen more interest from 40- to 50-year-olds.

The price of an RV varies widely, from 150,000 to 750,000 yuan ($23,250-116,250), with the most popular ones somewhere in the middle at about 500,000 yuan ($75,000).

Hong Zhiwei, marketing director at Sunshine Glamping Park in Beijing, said the park has hosted 3,000-5000 people during China's National Day holiday, doubling the number for a regular weekend. "For long-term RV camping customers, we offer special deals tailored for a week or a month. The RV industry will be huge market in the future, with recreational vehicles being a family's second car, the first one for (regular) transport, and the second for travel," Hong said.

The pandemic has affected the tourism industry, but it hasn't stopped people from pursuing a good life outdoors.