Before the pandemic, the idea of sleeping in a tent and cooking around a campfire didn’t sound too relaxing to many holidaymakers. But attitudes have changed in the last two years. In the UK, one in five adults have been on a camping or caravan holiday since the pandemic began, says market researcher Mintel. Of this group, about 4.5 million were sleeping in a tent or caravan for the first time.
With Omicron still forcing various parts of China into lockdowns – and cramping the chances of travelling further afield – more Chinese are starting to embrace camping too. According to travel booking site Qunar, ticket sales for parks with campsites have increased by over 50% on last year. And data from Trip.com showed that online searches for “camping” over the Labour Day holiday on May 1 increased by 90% from the week before.
Potential campers have been shopping for outdoor equipment in greater numbers as well. On Tmall turnover of large tents, sleeping bags, folding tables and chairs more than doubled in the first three months of this year compared with a year ago.
Camping has been getting more popular for a while – particularly with hipster adventurers, not least because of the opportunity to show off a flurry of rustic photos on social media.
Travel restrictions because of Covid have also increased the incidence of shorter and more localised holidays – often a better fit for a camping break. Another part of the rationale for holidaying in the great outdoors is that people think the risk of catching Covid is lower than staying in guesthouses and hotels.
Camping seems to be most popular with people in southern Guangdong, southwestern Sichuan province and Chongqing, also in the southwest. Indeed, outdoor breaks were so in demand over the Golden Week public holiday period this month that many complained that it was impossible to find a place to pitch a tent.
“Camping in Guangzhou is really popular this year. Even though prices have tripled, it is still impossible to book,” one campground operator told National Business Daily.
The idea of an outdoors stay has also been attracting an influx of more affluent families to higher-end camping holidays. Also in Guangzhou, luxury ‘glamping’ packages at the Huadu Furong Resort have been offering a night’s stay in an air-conditioned caravan for four people, with add-ons of outdoors activities like rock climbing and trampolining, as well as breakfast. The overnight package costs Rmb7,122 (just over $1,000) but there is no shortage of takers: the glamp site was fully booked for the entire Labour Day weekend, for instance.
Luxury brands like Prada have taken note of the trend and tried to tap into the camping frenzy too. Last year the fashion house unveiled an Outdoor Collection inspired by the great outdoors (with items including a Prada tent and Prada chairs). Local lifestyle brand Beast has also launched its own camping line with gear including mats, night lights and cookware.
In a sign that the camping craze is showing no sign of subsiding, iQiyi and Jiangsu Satellite TV launched a new show called Camping Life this month that features a group of celebrities (including William Chan and Zhang Ruonan) experiencing camping for the first time. The show offers advice to newcomers to camping like what to look for in shopping for a tent and what else to bring on a trip to the ‘great outdoors’.
The ever-savvy Hunan Satellite TV is also in the middle of filming a new reality series around the camping theme too. In a spin-off of the older concept Divas Hit the Road, the new format follows starlets like A-lister Yang Mi and actress Liu Mintao as they experience life under canvas for the first time…
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