Beijingers seek respite in urban outdoors

STORY: While China's capital Beijing is under a near-lockdown, its urbanite residents are finding solace in nature - right in the city outskirts.

Against the backdrop of smoke stacks, some spots just outside Beijing are seeing a surge in visitors looking to engage with the great outdoors.

Local resident Teng Fei was picnicking with his family.

“I think day-to-day life in this city, regardless of whether you're young or old, has felt rather depressed and dull with the recent pandemic outbreak. So camping makes everyone relaxed a bit, and makes (our mood) better.”

Gatherings in the sprawling city of 22 million are currently discouraged, and many parks are closed to the public.

But more than two years of strict pandemic curbs have left people all across China without many alternatives.

One resident Zhang saw an opportunity.

“This city is too large. Made of steel and concrete. The kids stay inside the buildings every day. I think when they get out to places like this, they can get closer to nature, it can help nurture a kid’s nature.”

Outdoor pursuits' popularity is a boon for camping gear stores.

LI Xiaoming runs the Sanfo Outdoor Store in Beijing and says people have been snapping up more chairs, canopies and tents since early April.

“Approximately after the Tomb Sweeping Day holiday, the overall sales increased by 300% comparing to the same period last year and the year before last year. It has shown an explosive growth.”

Chinese government website Travel China said camping-related businesses grew by more than 55% in 2021.

One local research firm predicts the country's camping industry will grow more than 18% this year.