Camper vans are coming to Moscow – and they could soon be shuttling to and from Sheremetyevo Airport, allowing passengers to shower and shave while waiting in traffic on Leningradskoye Shosse.
According to the Moscow (Russia) Times, the plan is one of a number of quirky proposals aimed at cracking open an RV market in a country where atrocious roads and abundant dachas limit the appeal of a family camping vacation.
“It’s all just beginning; you could call it an experiment,” said Igor Kamarov, whose company, Autodacha, is one of three that now rent out camper vans in Moscow.
“You can focus on tourism, but there is no infrastructure. No routes, no camp sites,” he said. Instead, the most interest in his Belarussian-made Kupava campers has been shown by filmmakers, with fishermen not far behind.
While recreation is expected to play a part in the development of the market, the kind of family vacations seen in the West are a long way off, said Hans Bayer, general director of International Trade Marketing (ITM), which late last year began to distribute German-made Hymer campers in the Commonwealth of Independent States.
ITM works with four dealerships in Moscow, two of which offer the vehicles for rent.
“In the second stage, maybe in the next five years, the plan is to develop the general idea of camping,” Bayer said.
In the meantime, ITM has been thinking outside the box in its efforts to bring the vehicles to Russia.
Its dealer in St. Petersburg has rented land for parking 10 caravans during the winter months at a spot where there are some good ski slopes, but no hotel.
The Moscow office is looking to sign a deal with Sheremetyevo Airport to provide a shuttle service to the city center, Bayer said. This would allow business executives to take a shower or a nap, or sit down to initial negotiations with their Moscow partners, on what can be a long, stop-and-go ride to their hotels in the center of town.
“You arrive in business class, and for the next 100 meters there is VIP service. And then you have a problem,” he said.
One Russian oil and gas company has already bought a camper to use as a mobile office, said Bayer, who said he saw potential for doing business with companies with operations in remote regions. The vans are equipped to deal with temperatures down to minus 40 degrees Celsius.
“At minus 50 in Yakutia, it starts to be a problem,” he said.
Several rental companies said they had received inquiries from fishermen, with participants in other extreme sports also potential customers.
Vadim Beroyev, commercial director at Laura-Spetsialniye Avtomobili, which rents campers in St. Petersburg, said sporting events were a big area of interest.
He said he personally drove a camper van around Lake Ladoga to accompany an off-road race – although in the absence of facilities for campers, he was forced to take water for the vehicle from the lake.
But he said most of the people in the St. Petersburg region calling about the campers said they wanted them for vacations abroad.
“About 70% of the demand we have for rentals is for travel abroad – in Scandinavia or around Europe,” Beroyev said.
While the smaller models, under 3.5 tons, do not require a special driver’s license, the larger models do.
So far, the results of the camper experiment have been modest. ITM said its total turnover in Russia from sales since late last year was about $1 million. Hymer is one of the market leaders in Europe. In Moscow, its cheapest models are priced at about $64,000 and the most expensive at more than $200,000.
Despite the limitations of the market, one advantage Moscow does have is its millionaires and billionaires, always looking for a new toy to spend their money on.
“At the beginning, we expect to sell some really high-end models for, let’s say, mini-oligarchs,” Bayer said. “They’ll have, say, a Mercedes for work, a 4×4 for their bodyguards and a Hymer for fishing.”
But for now at least, it does not look like many of Russia’s elite will forgo a weekend at the dacha for a camping trip.
“I don’t think Russians will exchange their dacha for a Hymer,” said Yelena Kobzeva, marketing manager at ITM’s Moscow office. “The dacha is very established. It’s home sweet home.”