Editor’s Note: The following article appears in OZY Magazine examining a rise in international RV vacations among Chinese tourists. For the full story click here.
In 2009, the manager of Beijing-based Ntours International, Lin Yang, embarked on a familiarization trip with a group of Chinese tourists. Instead of hiring a tour bus and a flag-waving guide, Yang and his travelers flew from the Chinese capital to San Francisco, where they rented recreational vehicles (RVs). Their game plan? To visit Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park in one epic road trip. With limited English and little experience driving the giant, diesel-powered vehicles, the group battled a few metaphorical potholes — like language barriers and the rules of the road — before eventually settling into their new travel style. Today, Yang estimates that there are 60,000 members of Ntours International who are interested in these “self-driving” vacations. “It breaks the cultural and language barriers between people,” he says.
The rise in the popularity of international RV vacations for seasoned Chinese travelers is due to the country’s rapidly improving standard of living, paired with fewer barriers to travel in the U.S., such as the advent in 2014 of a 10-year multiple-entry visa for Chinese tourists. According to Joe Laing, the director of marketing at El Monte RV, a popular rental dealer for Chinese visitors to Los Angeles County, “The U.S. is kind of considered the homeland for the RV industry, and where else can you rent a 45-foot diesel motorhome and drive it around like a tour bus for a rock star with your family?”
RVs first entered the hearts and minds of Chinese consumers with the 1999 film Be There or Be Square, a romantic comedy that follows a Beijing native living out of an RV in Los Angeles. But car ownership, let alone RV rental, has not always been the norm in China. In 2000 there were just four million cars distributed among a population of 1.3 billion, according to The Guardian. Now, China is the largest auto manufacturer in the world, with more than 280 million vehicles and 327 million drivers in 2015, according to its Ministry of Public Security.
For the full story click here.