422 million people go on a tour during the National Day holiday, which means travel is back on the menu. Camping, featuring niche tourism with less human contact but keeping closer to nature, has become the height of fashion in vacationing since the outbreak of Covid-19. Ctrip data shows that during the National Day holiday, the orders within camping tourism increased by more than 10 times over the same period last year, of which local orders accounted for nearly 80%. The cost of camping per capita is about 650 yuan, which is about 30% more expensive than for the Mid-Autumn Festival.
With such a camping trend, many white tents are protruding from suburban lawns, with a long table full of varied cups, plates, dishes, drinks, and food nearby. Some campers even equip themselves with a barbecue oven, with sausages and burgers sizzling on it. Children are chasing each other while adults are chatting and eating snacks. What a life! When the night comes, someone will hang a yellow light string on the tent, and pick up a guitar to hold a live music concert.
Compared with the long trek of interprovincial tourism, camping is not limited by location and, more importantly, the length of the vacation. Now there are impressive packages of camping that have been invented. Camping plus fishing, camping plus paddle yoga, desert camping plus a bonfire party, island camping, and other diverse combinations are sought after by young people. More than that, camping is not confined to nature, it even penetrates into the heart of the iron city. A case to this point is a landmark camping activity launched by Guangzhou Tower in March 2022. By carving out a city camping space with diverse exquisite equipment such as star lights, camping blankets, etc., people can enjoy a panoramic view of the Pearl River.
Domestic consumption preferences and travel modes have changed, setting off a new trend of short-distance and high-frequency tourism under the hit of comprehensive factors, such as repeated waves of pandemics, economic downturns, and consumption willingness. The popularity of camping, hiking, and other outdoor tours in the past two years has increased significantly compared with that in 2020 and even before the pandemic. JD data shows that the market size of China’s camping economy will reach 74.75 billion yuan ($10.5 billion) in 2021, with a year-on-year growth of 62.5%. Related varieties also played a role. With the release of “Camping Life” and “Divas Hit the Road Camping Season”, the search frequency of keywords like outdoor and camping on JD Online rose 375% year-on-year.
Camping is often a symbol of decent income, good cultivation, and leisure time, but the rapid growth of China’s camping market goes far beyond that. As the pandemic limited the travel radius, micro vacations like camping, which are short in distance and experience-oriented, have gradually become the mainstream of tourism. Moreover, in the wake of the pandemic, there has been an increased focus on healthy lifestyles. This focus on exercise and yearning for nature in turn encourages the development of more ecological, low-carbon, environmentally friendly cultural tourism products, like camping and the surrounding economies it brings.
Furthermore, camping not only allows people to temporarily escape the city to enjoy nature, and promote parent-child relationships via nature education, but it also makes people acquire a sense of ritual social clock. Camping, originally a part of outdoor sports, has gradually become a way for urban people to relax and socialize. On the one hand, the demand of urban people for outdoor social interaction does exist despite the normalization of pandemic prevention and control; on the other hand, with the advertisement in short video platforms, camping has been packaged as a sophisticated lifestyle, which has attracted many young people. However, it is not difficult for the young to find that camping is only a way to move urban social scenes to the outdoors. When sitting on the lounge chair and posting photos on social media, they will soon realize camping has nothing to do with outdoor activities but playing on a phone in a different location.
However, we cannot deny that, to some degree, camping is a way to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and a compromise to the risks of trans-provincial tourism during the pandemic. The essence of camping still lies in the enthusiasm we hold for life because, in camping, there are friend interactions, parent-child companionships, and various unexpected situations. We still crave a sense of romance even during the pandemic. We want to be surrounded by nature, tasty food, and more importantly, people we love. Hence, it is worthwhile for us to put down our mobile phones and immerse ourselves in the romance of camping.
Dai Jiahuan is a student from Guangdong University of Foreign Studies. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.