Camping in China: A Good Business?
Glamping? Glamorous camping!
Many indicators are hinting at “camping” as a new growth point for post-pandemic consumption in China. According to Ctrip (the country’s leading hotel & transportation booking platform), during the 2022 Qingming Festival bookings for camping services have tripled compared to the previous. E-Commerce platform Tmall’s data also showed a considerable increase in sales of outdoor supplies – with outdoor pour over kettle and gas lamps ranking at the customers’ favorite category. Public enthusiasm for camping has boosted related industries from essentials such as camping equipment (tent, sleeping bag, folding chair, etc.), outdoor clothing and even recreational vehicles, to services such as site operation and trip shootings.
Camping is a recreational activity in which participants take up temporary residence in the outdoors, usually using tents or specially designed or adapted vehicles for shelter. However, in China people especially love "Glamping" (glamour + camping), a style of camping with a full set of exquisite amenities and, in some cases, resort-style services not normally associated with "traditional" camping. Glamping suggests a way of life featuring human-nature harmony, reunion with family or friends, and a temporary escape from the dull reality just like camping, but without all the outdoor hardships.
Camping is fun. But the boom is mainly facilitated by the social mood after the Covid pandemic. Due to untimely city-level lockdowns, people face troubles in travelling across cities/provinces and thus many travelling plans have been cancelled. Longing for freedom, exploration and fun, many start to seek substitutes for daily recreation within the cities they live in. Glamping enables short-distance travel and innovative experiences, which is a perfect substitute for travel. Without the pandemic as a driver, glamping would not be so welcomed. Social media posts of stylish glamping activities with quality equipment and exotic foods by celebrities and KOLs also further accelerate the popularity.
Opportunities vs. Challenges
Though for now having created huge business profit and successful stories for some industry players, the future is not 100% promising as challenges also emerges:
Can glamping penetrate a wider population? For now, market penetration is low as only roughly 10% of Chinese have participated in outdoor sports. In comparison, this proportion is at 50% in developed countries such as the US, the UK or even higher at 70% in Australia. In addition, the popularity is so far limited to certain well-developed provinces such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong.
Does the market remain attractive after the COVID pandemic? On the one hand, cultivating camping as a public “regular habit” needs time. In this initial stage, many people camp only out of “KOL effect” or “online postability”. On the other hand, the industry is immature, lacking supporting facilities and industry standards. According to some public reviews, the infrastructure such as electricity, water supply and sanitary installation as well as uncontrollable factors such as weather, mosquitoes, and humidity result in low satisfaction.
All in all, many first-time tries do not trigger future engagement. Essentially, the consumers of glamping are no outdoor professionals who regard camping as a way of survival in the wild, but youngsters and families who move their exquisite living from homes and hotels to the mountains and forests. Therefore, players of this market should take advantage of the current good timing to educate the customers but be cautious and respond to potentially fast-changing real social needs.