China's outdoor recreation frenzy drives consumption boom
Bi Ran

Outdoor activities are becoming more popular in China. The growing trend has created new business opportunities and led to a boost in the outdoor recreation economy.

A recent report by global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney said China's outdoor sports market is expected to grow to nearly $90 billion by 2025. And the momentum is only getting stronger.

In big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, parks, mountains and lakes around the metro areas are increasingly places for people to work out, play sports or just enjoy the fresh air. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, many Chinese people have chosen to head outdoors to discover the fun of being in the wild.

Li Nan, the manager of Primitive Sports Club, told CGTN in an interview that his club has been running very well after he started new programs like frisbee training and flag football games.

"Our outdoor recreation business has largely grown in the past three years. There are clients booking frisbee courts and trainers every day, which rarely happened before the pandemic," he said.

From frisbee and glamping to flag football and stand-up paddle, outdoor activities are becoming more and more popular in China. The pandemic has played a role by reminding people to enjoy life's simple delights. But it is not just individuals who are benefiting; industries are reaping the rewards too. The craze has spread to fashion, sportswear and outdoor equipment brands.

Per data from Chinese lifestyle platform Xiaohongshu, in the first four months of this year, more than 10 brands appeared among the top 30 search results for tents. Searches for glamping – outdoor camping with amenities and comforts – rose 623 percent year on year in April 2022 compared to the year-on-year growth of 360 percent in April 2021.

In June, searches related to "frisbee" on Xiaohongshu increased by about 98 times year on year. Meanwhile, searches related to "paddleboard" increased by about 11 times year on year.

"There is countless vertical content for outdoor activities, from tents, trolleys and coffee cups to athleisure outfits and more; you name it. Multiple brands have launched official accounts on the platform to attract customers," said Da Chun, Xiaohongshu's operations manager of outdoors content.

The trend is changing people's lifestyles and reflects their concerns about health and missing out on social activities.

Managing Director with Accenture Strategy and Consulting in Greater China, Eric Hor, told CGTN that consumers are being "more prudent" right now in terms of saving.

"But there is a huge take in terms of investing for experiences, education and health. For outdoor sports, you can argue that it is much more about enriching days of experiences, as well as building up of a health agenda," he explained.

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