The History of Camping and Caravanning

Kazuhiro Akase
Secretary General
F.I.C.C. Asia-Pacific Commission

Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all let me introduce myself as Secretary General of the F.I.C.C. Asia-Pacific Commission and Executive Director of Japan Autocamping Federation.

In my presentation I would like to go back to the origin of the camping and caravanning and review the history of its development in Europe, the United States and Japan, showing some historical pictures which will help you get a concrete image about what I wish to convey.

I hope my presentation will serve you as a background when you hear the specific themes on the camping and caravanning presented by other speakers.

Let me start my presentation by defining the key concepts.

"Camping" means in principle, using a tent. People carry a tent and other camping equipment in a vehicle to a particular destination, where they enjoy the outdoor life and spend the night in a tent.

"Caravanning" is touring by means of a "caravan", which is either a camping trailer towed by a vehicle, or a "motorcaravan", which is a self-propelled caravan. In Japan, we include all these forms of camping and caravanning in a single word, "autocamping". So I will use the word "autocamping" in my presentation as a concept including all types of camping and caravanning, as well.

What is the origin of the camping and caravanning, where and how it started?

With the onset of industrial revolution in the Great Britain in the 2nd half of the 18th century, production capacity expanded drastically and the social structure changed from a rural society to an urban society.In the 2nd half of the 19th century, due to the increase in the production capacity, working hours were gradually reduced and workers' income increased. So the city dwellers got more free time and more money to spend during their free time. So they turned to nature and began escaping from the city.It was during this period that outdoor leisure activities such as mountain climbing or canoeing became popular.

In the beginning, people started camping as a way of accommodation while pursuing their outdoor activities.In the end of the 19th century, when the bicycle first appeared, cycling was popular among the educated upper-middle class as one of the new-fashioned leisure activities.

Before long, the so called "cycling campers" began to appear. These were people who loaded a tent on their bicycle and went on camping. This idea of using a bicycle as an individual means of transport and loading camping equipment on it was nothing else but the origin of the modern style of camping where a car is used instead of a bicycle.

As for caravanning, the original form was the horse and carriage.In the 2nd half of the 19th century, caravans started to be used for the purposes of leisure activities such as picnic or hunting. The oldest existing caravan is named "Wanderer". It was designed for Gordon Stables , doctor and writer by profession, in 1884. He took Wanderer on a tour all over the England.It was called "horse caravanning" when people toured round in a caravan towed by horses. This was the origin of the modern style of caravanning where a car is used instead of horses.

Now let's have a glance at the United States of America.

In the 1st half of the 19th century, the industrial revolution began in the United States and it brought industrialization and urbanization at rapid pace. It followed essentially the same course as in the second half of the 19th century in Great Britain, except one thing, "automobile"

After mass-production of the Ford Model T began in 1908, even regular households could afford their own car.In the 1920s there was a sudden increase in the number of people loading tents into passenger cars and going for camping. During this period there were approximately 10 million cars on roads, and it is estimated that out of those, 5 million were used for autocamping. Furthermore, the number of campers at that time was approximately 15 million.

So we could say it was the world's first autocamping boom.

Now we are coming back again to Europe to see the history of FICC. It would be interesting to know the very clear process of the development, beginning from the tent camping over caravanning to motorcaravanning.

The FICC was founded in 1932 in the Netherlands by eleven associations from Belgium, France, Great Britain, Italy and the Netherlands.And the first FICC rally took place in 1933 at Hampton Court Park in Great Britain joined by 390 campers of 13 clubs and associations from seven countries.

As you see from the picture, they are all tent campers and also the name of organization is Federation International des Clubs de Camping in French, that is to say International Federation of Camping Clubs, so not camping and caravanning as it is now, simply because caravans were not popular at all at that time.

18 years after the first FICC rally, the 12th FICC Rally took place in Florence , Italy in 1951. It is noteworthy that there were around 1000 tents and 120 caravans. In this connection a very important decision in the history of FICC was made. In order to include caravanners within the same family as campers, General Assembly of FICC decided to change its name to Federation International de Camping et de Caravanning in French. that is to say International Federation of Camping and Caravanning as it is now. Fortunately, the abbreviation of FICC remained the same.

Furthermore, in 1978, 27 yeas after the rally in Italy, the 39th FICC Rally took place in Sweden. The total number of participants was 5339 in 435 tents, 1408 caravans and 69 motorcaravans.This was the very first time that the number of motorcaravans appeared on the statistics of FICC. Of course there might have already been some motorcaravans prior to that, but it was just negligible. So from then on the percentage of the motorcaravan in FICC rallies has been continuously increasing up to the present date.

So far we have reviewed the history of autocamping from its origin in the late 19th century up to the late 20th century. Now I would like you to take a look at the history of development of autocamping in Japan.

Autocamping first appeared in Japan in the 1960s, when the economy was growing rapidly and the average growing rate was over 10% through a decade. As a result of the economical growth, disposable incomes were rising so that people could spend more money for leisure.In addition, the growing use of personal cars and construction of highways made it easier to travel by car. These changes in society served as the background to the birth of autocamping.

Rapid economic growth ended in the 1970s due to the dollar crisis, two times oil crisis and extreme appreciation of the yen. However, ladies and gentlemen, these economically disadvantageous situations were not negative for autocamping, but quite the contrary in fact. Because working hours were shortened due to the elimination of overtime and leisure time increased. People started to value leisure more than work and think of their family more than their company.

With slowdown in the economical growth in the 1980s, working hours became even shorter. People got interested more in spiritual enrichment than material enrichment. As its reflection on leisure, there was a shift from money-consumed leisure activities to time-consumed leisure activities. People's awareness of health and environmental issues also grew. With these changes in mental aspects , autocamping became even more popular. In consequence, the auto camper population doubled from 4 million in 1984 to 8 million in 1989.

In the first half-decade of the 1990s the low economic growth brought about a huge autocamping boom in Japan, with the autocamper population reaching 15 million. Local and central governments started to build campsites, so the high-standard public campsites appeared around the country. The total number of campgrounds exceeded 1300. The number of registered RV reached 300,000 units. The sales volume of camping equipment reached 7.6 billion yen.

In the late 1990s the boom of autocamping was over and the autocamper population decreased significantly. However in the 2000s the camper population has stabilized at around 8 million, that is about 2 million families. Every year, about 400,000 young families freshly start autocamping as family leisure.In addition a growing number of couples who have finished raising children, the so-called "senior campers" go camping by themselves.

For these reasons we could say that autocamping in Japan has moved from a growth phase to a mature phase. Now in Japan, the autocamping is considered as a life style. It is practiced from childhood across young families, up to the senior generation. Today we could easily say, autocamping is a national pastime in Japan.

So far I have given you an overview about the history of autocamping originating from 19th century in Great Britain up to the present date in Japan. Based on these historical considerations we could conclude that there are several key factors for the birth and development of autocamping. They are:




(4)Middle class

Now, I would like to consider these factors point by point, in the light of the present situation in China.

Generally speaking, the 2000s in China are equivalent to the 1960s in Japan when the economy was growing rapidly and autocamping was becoming popular.In the 1960s Japan recorded an average GDP growth rate of 10.2% and became the second largest economy in terms of GDP in 1968. On the other hand, China kept an average GDP growth rate of 10% through the 2000s and overtook Japan as the second largest economy in 2010. This led to the increase of disposable income in China.

In China the urbanization rate exceeded the limit of 50% for the first time in 2011. That means more people live in cities than in agricultural areas. As a result of urbanization, a growing number of city people are anticipated to feel a desire to go outdoors and be in natural surroundings with their family.

Needless to say, the motorization is indispensable for autocamping. A car is an individual means of transportation which will give you high mobility.In 2009, China's production of automobiles exceeded Japan and its sales exceeded US, making it the largest country both in production and in the sales of automobile in the world. It promotes more people to have their own cars.It also promotes the construction and expansion of expressways. The total extension of expressway in China measures 85,000km as of the end of 2011, the second longest expressway network after US.

(4)Middle class
The mainstream of people who enjoy autocamping is the middle class.The GDP per capita is about 3000 US dollars in China, which is only tenth of the Japanese economy, but the population of the middle-income group is 230 million which is almost twice the total population of Japan. So it is expected that a growing number of people will start autocamping.

Based on those considerations we can say that the key factors for autocamping already exist in China.

Finally, I would like to make a prediction about the development of autocamping in China.

In China autocamping will develop significantly faster and in a much larger scale than in Japan.

One reason to say so is that the starting line in China is very high; because of the fact that there is already a camping industry in China. For example, China produces a great deal of camping equipment based on the specifications from Japanese manufacturers and exports them to Japan. Therefore Chinese manufactures have sufficient know-how to produce top-quality camping equipment.

As for camping vehicles, CRVC (Centech RV Camping) is producing 3000 units a year, making it the largest RV manufacturer in Asia. Furthermore there are a lot of coach builders who are producing their own brands. There are also some dealers who are importing RVs from Europe and US.It is said that there are 6000 RVs in total as of today in China but it would be doubled already next year.

In addition, China has a big advantage of scale. China's population is about 10 times the size of Japan's, so I am quite sure that, as compared to Japan, a much greater number of people will enjoy autocamping in China.

China's land area is also about 25 times bigger than Japan's. As I said there are about 1300 campgrounds in Japan. So we can easily imagine how big is the potential for construction of campgrounds in China. Further more, unlike Japan surrounded by the sea, China is a continent. If you take the Silk Road, you can travel overland as far as the Middle East and Europe.

Based on these background factors, I believe the autocamping in China will grow rapidly in a very large scale, and I am sure that China will be soon the world-leader in the field of camping and caravanning.

Thank you for your attention.

September 2012 (Symposium at International Conference Xiedao, Beijing, China)

Mark of Asia Pacific Commission

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