Fueling tourism recovery with micro tours
China Daily

Illustration:CHINA DAILY

The concept of "micro-tourism" or "micro-vacation", which comes from the tourism industry, may not be new, but micro-tourism seems to have become a trend in recent years.

Micro-tourism is characterized by short-distance travel- two-to-three hours of driving-and two- to-three days' stay at some place, usually on weekends or during short holidays. In contrast to a proper vacation, which usually involves elaborate planning, much longer travel time, higher expenses, and extends over a week or more, micro-vacation needs little planning and time, and is less expensive.

Also, a micro-tourism travel group is relatively small, usually a family seeking quality time and comfort together, and the choice of location more flexible.

Micro-tourism began catching on seven or eight years ago, and has become increasingly popular since the COVID-19 outbreak. With the pandemic prevention and control measures becoming a norm and since the chances of infection are higher during long-distance travel, more and more people, especially those living in large and medium-sized cities, go on short vacations, usually on weekends, for relaxation.

Local tours, short-distance leisure tours, family trips, sisterhood tours, self-driving tours, recreational vehicle (RV) tours and camping picnics have been fueling the tourism industry's recovery. As the pandemic prevention and control policy is likely to be in place for some time given the uncertainties over the novel coronavirus, especially the emergence of more infectious variants like Omicron, an increasing number of people are going on short vacations to ease tensions of daily life.

Adapting to these new trends, destinations around cities, country parks, forest parks, cultural parks, campsites and resorts are offering new, specialized facilities and services for RV camping, "script murder", barbecue and picnics. Homestays, winery tours, parental hotels, handicraft workshops, cultural and creative product markets, and open-air concerts are also becoming popular.

Besides, short videos and new media platforms have been promoting new tourism projects and forms. For example, a well-known lifestyle platform has nearly 50 new formats related to micro-tourism, including cute pet interaction, pet photography, movie hotels, trampolines, surfing, skydiving, paragliding and other activities.

Among the various micro-tourism formats, the development of the camping market is particularly noticeable. The internet is full of innovative short videos on camping. And camping equipment is selling well, and it's hard to get camping sites in country parks. What's more, the camping market has been attracting increasing numbers of urban youths and young families who see campsites as an "extension of their living room" and camping as a new way of socializing.

Camps have sprung up around Beijing and other big cities like mushrooms. Many urban parks and villages are full of camps. Camping plus flower viewing, camping plus RV driving, camping plus open-air concert, camping plus travel photography, camping plus stargazing, camping plus fly fishing, camping plus paddle board yoga, cave camping plus adventure and other "camping plus" programs have become popular.

The concept of exquisite camping (Glamping), too, is becoming popular. The rapid development of camping tourism has raised the demand for tents, canopies, cassette stoves, camp vehicles, outdoor tables and chairs, air mattresses, sleeping bags, outdoor clothing and other camping-related equipment.

China has about 45,000 camping-related companies, of which more than 20,000 were set up in 2021 and over 5,000 in the first quarter of this year.

Also, international outdoor gear brands have been increasing investments in China.

As the Chinese economy develops and consumer demand changes, micro-tourism including the camping and related sectors hold great potential for development, and will continue to promote RV manufacturing, and the development and sales of smartphones, video tools and other equipment.

To fully realize the market potential of micro-tourism, more government guidance is needed on how to improve industry standards, safety management, sanitation, environmental protection, emergency rescue services and anti-pandemic measures.

In the camping sector, for example, there is a need to improve planning, functional layout and construction, strengthen management and provide better service support, so as to ensure the sector's sustainable development.

If these issues are properly addressed, micro-tourism will not only drive the recovery of the tourism industry in the short term, but also help diversify the tourism industry and facilitate its high-quality development in the long run.

The author is director of the Tourism Research Center, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.