Suburban district offers rural minsu packages on weekdays
Shanghai resident Jeff Qian had a sip of tea and snacks while enjoying spring sunshine with friends under a tent at Zhoujiagang Village in Qingpu District.
It was Thursday, a workday, but Qian and his two friends managed to strike a work-life balance.
At Ledao Xintian, a camping spot near Zhujiajiao watertown, they had the whole lawn to themselves, making the experience better than weekends.
"I enjoy camping," Qian said. "See, we are making tea on a fire. That's life."
They rented an entire villa, known as minsu, the Chinese version of B&B, at the site.
Qian said they drove one hour from downtown Putuo District. "We came here to experience rural Shanghai. Beautiful surroundings. Lovely weather. Good facilities. It is just perfect.
"Compared with weekends, there are fewer people now, which allows us to have a better experience," he added.
Qingpu District's cultural and tourism authorities have announced a campaign to promote a "non-weekend minsu economy" (Monday to Thursday) in the post-COVID-19 era, including non-weekend minsu (Chinese version of B&B) packages with a plum blossom theme for tourists from Shanghai and the Yangtze River Delta.
The program includes over 20 district-licensed minsus.
Taqing, literally "stepping on the green," is a popular spring outing activity.
"The itineraries target those with flexible work schedules, new retirees, tourists and companies with team-building needs," said Qingpu District Culture and Tourism Bureau Deputy Director Xu Ruiguo.
According to Xu, minsu in the district are only 5 percent occupied from Monday through Thursday, but 70 percent on weekends.
A three-day non-weekend itinerary includes a tour of Zhujiajiao watertown, afternoon tea and a Jiangnan (regions south of the Yangtze River) freshwater delicacies, Qingxi Country Park, nongjiale (literally "agritainment") in Lianhu Village, and a visit to Shanghai Daguanyuan (Grandview Garden) to enjoy the plum blossoms.
Also recommended in the activity are fruit picking, cycling around Dianshan Lake, and a hot spring experience at Sun Island Resorts Shanghai.
Travel agencies are offering packages at half price or lower to attract visitors, both offline and online.
Minsu has been gaining popularity, and non-weekend trip rovides a more relaxing experience. Four rural minsus received "star" status last year.
They provide a variety of leisure activities, ranging from camping and outdoor sports to intangible cultural heritage experiences such as "Apo tea," in which grannies sip tea together in the afternoon – a tradition that has been passed down for over 700 years – jiaobai (wild rice shoots) leaf weaving, and rice cake making, allowing tourists to sample authentic Jiangnan watertown charm.
"The goal is not to increase the number of minsu but to improve them, which requires policy support and service upgrades," Xu explained. "How to fill minsus up on workdays is what needs to be worked on."
With plum blossoms in full swing, several tourist attractions in the district, such as Shanghai Daguanyuan, are overrun with visitors on weekends.
"Non-weekend travel will provide a more satisfying experience," Xu said.
More diverse options for these packages designed for different seasons will be introduced, as will more cultural and tourist resources in the district, he said.
"The ultimate goal is to stimulate the non-weekend economy and rural revitalization," he said.
"Minsu's business model is becoming more diverse, with varied functions and target groups," said Luo Danhong, general manager of Shanghai Qingzhuzhou Tourism Development Co Ltd, which runs Ledao Xintian.
Families, companies with team-building needs, retirees, and even people doing livestream all use the site.
The site has a restaurant, a tea house and outdoor sports areas. It also sells local agricultural specialties. It hosts a variety of DIY and outdoor events.
"Unlike hotels, minsu vary in rooms and facilities, and many lack the skills to run the business," said Lu Zhengde, deputy general manager of Shanghai Menglongyuan Tourism Development Co Ltd, which is in charge of designing and selling tourist packages.
"We hope to attract those new retirees who gather frequently to play mahjong and line dance," he added.
One or two minsu resorts will be built in Qingpu District, and regulations promoting high-quality industry development will be issued.
"We are tapping non-weekend minsu economy, and we are confident about it," Xu said.