Chinese tourists turn to outdoor, eco-friendly trips

Chinese tourists are seeking short-distance and high-end trips as the COVID-19 pandemic has limited overseas travel and social-distancing has become a new norm in the post-pandemic era. 

The new trend has prompted Chinese tour operators to redirect their business towards the domestic tourism market. Many of them now focus on satisfying domestic travelers' new wish-list: Go near, go outdoors, go healthy.

Destination Asia, which used to specialize in high-end domestic travel, is now adjusting its strategy to meet the new demand by tapping into China's vast resource of natural landscapes.

"Key areas will be in mountain hiking, trekking, and the areas we've picked so far are in Guizhou, Yunnan and Tibet, southwestern China and the vast northwestern China such as Qinghai and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region," said Linda Wang, managing director of Destination Asia.

Some of the professional travelers have also noticed the change.

Chen Hanbin, one of China's key influencers in the outdoor travel sector, sees even bigger potential for the new trend.

"People will travel in a more nature-based way, like camping. I used to travel in RVs (recreational vehicles), and people I know who were totally uninterested in such travel are now asking me: Where can I rent an RV? Do you know how I can get a discount on buying an RV? Are they convenient in China? Many people are leaning towards camping or RV travel, especially those with kids," Chen said.

The craving for outdoors activities after months of lockdown is putting China's tourism industry on the trail of recovery. 

The longer-term trends of outdoors, eco-friendly and healthy travel could be what the industry needs to drive further growth.