RV motoring around China

Two weeks ago in China, a country with almost no commercial campgrounds and limited cross-country highways, Shane Ott of Billings opened a third Airstream RV dealership.

The Beijing dealer, Xing Liu, sold two RVs on opening weekend.

“I think, maybe in some cases, these ultra-wealthy people are parking the RV on their property just to make their equally wealthy neighbors jealous,” Ott said.

In recent years, China has been on a tear to build modern infrastructure from subways to railroads to highways.

“They may not have many miles of highways, but the ones they have are brand new,” he said.

Ott worked for Kampgrounds of America and now directs international business development for Airstream Inc.

In the first three months of this year, he has been racking up the frequent-flyer miles, trying to start RV dealerships mainly in China, Europe and Australia. In the past two years, Ott has flown to China seven times and logged an around-the-globe jaunt lasting 17 days. At the end of April, he jets off to Frankfurt, Germany; Naples, Italy; and Paris.

China is virtually commercial campground-free now, but that is changing, Ott said, and his company based in Jackson Center, Ohio, wants a cut of this future business. These mostly pull-behind trailers known for their shiny exteriors sell for an average retail price of $70,000.

Sales have risen 16 percent since August, the start of Airstream’s fiscal year, over the same period for its previous fiscal year.

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