However, Shi Jianqing, founder of Miye Camp, a campsite review platform, warned that the camping industry has already experienced bubbles. When Zihang turned to him for some suggestions about his campsite, he told him not to compete on price.
“Those [low-quality] campsites are caught in a price war, and we have to outdo them on quality,” he said.
According to Shi, although the number of campsites is growing in China, few provide unique experiences.
Ningmeng, a camper who lives in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province, agreed. “New campsites mainly attract beginners by providing a fresh experience. But for experienced campers, many of those sites are similar – they have similar equipment, activities and accommodation such as log cabins or rooms with skylights, and even similar scenery,” she said.
Both Ningmeng and Qi Wanji said that although they prefer camping with their own equipment, they do not mind paying more for a glamping site that provides a special experience or value-added services.
But after rugged campgrounds upgrade to glamping sites, few can justify the increased fees.
According to iiMedia’s 2021 customer satisfaction survey for campsites, increased price is the top concern for campers, followed by security and environment.
Zhang Dapeng complained that many currently in the game know little about camping. “They entered the industry just because it’s profitable,” he said, adding that camping, especially glamping, is more than setting up fancy equipment and a tent.
Domestic equipment brands face similar challenges, as they must compete to distinguish themselves from international brands through innovation and original designs. But given camping equipment’s lower profit margins compared to products like cosmetics, return on investment takes longer.
Wang Jigang, founder of The Free Spirit, a domestic tent brand, has been designing tents since 1999. He told NewsChina that in its early days, Yoto Plus twice neared bankruptcy because of high overhead and low returns.
Crystal, manager of M Square, an outdoor sports equipment supplier based in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, said she is unsettled by the hot market. “We have to spend much more on R&D, and once we launch a well-designed product, others soon copy it,” she complained. M Square injected one million yuan (US$150,000) to kick start its camping supply line last year, and has since considered pulling out many times, Crystal said.
“The whole industry is still in a preliminary period in China and there are too many newcomers,” Zhang Jing (pseudonym), an investor in a leading Chinese investment company, told NewsChina, saying he does not think it is good time to invest in the industry.