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China's Camping Boom Grapples with Limited Capacity and Land Use Issues

By KENNY DONG|May 26,2023

Chongqing - Camping is becoming the newest rage across China, attracting a surge of enthusiasts eager for outdoor adventures and bolstering cultural and tourism consumption nationwide.

Social media has played a pivotal role in fueling this camping craze. Douyin, a popular Chinese platform, has seen camping-related topics skyrocket to over 25.98 billion views. In Chongqing, a video entitled Recommended Camping Sites in Chongqing alone has captivated an audience of 160 million viewers.

The well-appointed camping base at Jinlingdi Mountain Cross-country Park in Jindao Gorges, Beibei District. (Photo/Yue Xingchen)

Insufficient capacity of camping sites 

Despite this soaring interest, the nascent camping industry is not without its issues. Primary among these is the inability of current camping facilities to accommodate the burgeoning influx of visitors, impacting the overall quality of the camping experience.

Over the recent Labor Day holiday, Wuling Mountain Forest Park, a tourist hot spot in Chongqing renowned for its breathtaking nature and scenery, hosted nearly 1,000 campers.

Visitors recounted interrupted water supply during showers, overflowing unused waste bins, and accidental tent fires. Many attributed such mishaps to the lack of professional guidance for outdoor activities.

"Camping should provide an oasis from city life, but when sites become crowded, it loses its charm," said Mr. Fu, a camping enthusiast.

In the face of high demand, quality camping sites have become scarce and challenging to book, forcing many campers to resort to lower-tier sites. This compromise has led to a rise in customer dissatisfaction with their camping experiences.

Chongqing's Banan District campsite operators explained that weekend bookings require at least two weeks' reservation, and holidays necessitate a month. For instance, the forthcoming Dragon Boat Festival campsites are already filled to capacity.

Concerns over land ownership issues

Despite the flourishing industry, some camping site operators are withdrawing due to concerns about land ownership.

The Development Plan for the Outdoor Sports Industry (2022-2025) encourages suburban park camping services and more campsite development in urban and rural areas. However, the reality often involves parks, green spaces, and tourist resorts, raising fears about potential legal land use issues.

"Many worry about the legality of this land use. If found to be unlawful, our camping sites could be dismantled," revealed an operator from a Chongqing High-Tech Zone campsite.

Moreover, the absence of unified industry standards and operational licensing for Chongqing's camping sector breeds further uncertainty, causing operators to hesitate before expanding or innovating.

Last November, the Guiding Opinions on Promoting the Healthy and Orderly Development of Camping Tourism and Leisure were issued by 14 government departments. Local regulations regarding campsite selection, safety assessment, and fire safety have been enforced in various regions, including Beijing, Zhejiang, Shanghai, Sichuan, Yunnan, and Guizhou.

Chongqing's Nanchuan district and other counties have also introduced provisional rules and guidelines for managing and building campsites. Despite these measures, a lack of unified regulatory documentation at the municipal level still prevails.


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