Families discovering the thrill of outdoor camping

For many Chinese parents, outdoor camping has become increasingly popular. It is a chance to break free from urban responsibilities and get close to nature with their children.

With music floating in the air, families barbecue beside their tents at a campsite in suburban Beijing. The children, who have spent the day playing outdoors, help their parents with dinner by passing them food to place on the grill.

For many Chinese parents, this type of getaway has become increasingly popular. It is a chance to break free from urban responsibilities and get close to nature with their children.

A report by online travel agency Trip.com Group showed Chinese families' expenditure on trips in the first half of 2021 increased by 41 percent from the same period last year, with a surge in camping and outdoor activities.

Many parents consider family camping a great opportunity for children to experience the outdoors and develop skills, curiosity and courage.

Zhao Yihong, a mother in Beijing, said her son still recalls their trip to Guangzhou Chimelong Safari Park two years ago when they camped in a tent outside the glasshouse of pandas. "He was deeply impressed," Zhao said. "Being able to sleep and wake up watching the pandas developed his love for animals."

An Na, another Beijing parent, said that during her family's first camping trip, her son helped keep the tent down and comfort other children who were scared during an unexpected storm.

Sun Jiandong, the founder of Sunshine Travel, echoed the view. "The COVID-19 pandemic has redirected young people's attention to themselves and sparked their demand for returning home and to nature," he said.

The trend is more apparent in larger cities. According to Trip.com, orders for family camping in Shanghai and surrounding areas increased by 206 percent in the first half of this year, compared with the same period in 2019, while the number of campsites around the first- and second-tier cities account for over half of that in the whole country.

Wei Linfeng, the head of the Shanghai Bay Fangche Camping, said the tourist volume at his campsite during the three-day May Day Holiday this year accounted for more than 30 percent of the annual number in the previous years.

Zhang Zhining, deputy director of Trip.com's research institute, believes future tourism will focus more on quality.

Many guesthouse operators are joining the camping market, offering diverse experiences such as campfires, outdoor cinemas and archery camps.

"Young parents need more chances to communicate and interact with their children or among themselves through high-quality trips. It presents a huge demand," Zhang said.

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