Camping proved to be a popular option over the recent May Day holiday in China, with many of those able to travel choosing to forgo the fast pace of city life for the serene surroundings of nature while abiding by COVID-19 prevention and control measures.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism said in a news release on Wednesday that short-distance tours remained the most popular choice among travelers over the five-day break from April 30 to Wednesday, due to the tightening of travel restrictions aimed at combating the spread of the novel coronavirus epidemic.
Tour products that featured camping and recreational vehicles were a popular choice among travelers, especially young and trendy people looking for new ways to experience travel.
"I went camping and had a picnic with my friends deep in the mountains during the holiday," said 31-year-old Ji Nan from Anji, Zhejiang province. "On the first day, we six drove about two hours from the city and put up our tents at around noon."
She had planned a family trip to Sanya, Hainan province, to spend the holiday but canceled it due to the epidemic.
"It's safer to take a self-driving tour and spend one or two days with people we are familiar with."
Ji said that to her family and friends, camping was not a second choice but a good way to get closer to nature. "It was relaxing, rather than just sleeping in a new place," she added.
Figures from travel agencies demonstrated the popularity of camping over the holiday and how, in turn, it has boosted consumption at entertainment venues, hotels and homestays near camp sites.
Trip.com, an online travel agency, said page views for their camping products on the first day of the holiday rose by 90 percent from the previous week. It said that reservations for hotels and homestays in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, the top choice for campers, rose by 130 percent compared with bookings made during the Tomb Sweeping Day holiday in early April.
It added that reservations for hotels and homestays with a hashtag related to camping increased by 153 percent compared with during the Tomb Sweeping Day holiday.
Figures from online travel platform Fliggy show that 90 percent of bookings for camping-related products were made by people born after 1980.
It said camping-related reservations over the holiday rose by 350 percent compared to the same period in April, and travelers from Hangzhou in Zhejiang province, Chengdu in Sichuan province and Guangzhou showed an overwhelming preference for camping.
"We had some gear for camping sell out around a week before the holiday started," said Ren Tian, from online travel services provider Qunar. "The sales volume was three times higher than during the same period last year."
According to Qunar, sales of park tickets where camping sites and services are offered to travelers surged 50 percent year-on-year.
China's camping market is expected to continue growing in the coming years. According to a report released by Guangzhou-based research firm iiMedia Research, the scale of China's camping market increased from 7.71 billion yuan ($1.16 billion) in 2014 to 29.9 billion yuan in 2021, and it is expected to grow by 18.6 percent in 2022 to 35.46 billion yuan.
In addition to camping-related products, kites, frisbees, barbecues, bonfires, open-air movies, as well as recreational vehicle trips and other outdoor activities have also become increasingly popular.
The camping industry in China has become one of the indispensable forms of outdoor tourism. As the country's outdoor recreation tourism grows, camping near urban areas will become increasingly popular, as it has fewer requirements and doesn't need long-distance travel, said Zhang Sining, a researcher with the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences.