China is experiencing a rural tourism boom amid the Covid-19 pandemic
(CNN) — China is in the middle of a boom in rural tourism as city dwellers escape the country's rapidly expanding urban centers to head out to small communities, farms and orchards for a taste of the simple life.
And the Chinese government couldn't be more pleased.
China has one of the largest domestic tourism markets in the world. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism estimated there will be more than four billion trips made across China in 2021, a market worth just over $500 billion.
With international tourism all but impossible due to the ongoing pandemic and quarantine restrictions, a demand for domestic alternatives isn't surprising -- especially as China is home to 55 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
But Chinese tourists aren't just heading to their country's historic and natural wonders -- some are looking for something a bit different.
In posts to Chinese social media site Weibo, one user named Ancailie said after spending a day picking mulberries, watching rice grow and eating home-grown food she was "much happier."
Another user, laozhenyiwen, described how they had gone to the country to fish and eat seafood for the recent May Day holiday, happy to have "avoided crowds."
Chinese-owned Trip.com Group, one of the world's largest online travel agencies, said by March 2021, rural tourism trips in China had increased year-on-year by more than 300%.
The trend is so lucrative that Trip.com is planning a "five year action plan" to promote rural tourism, which includes cultivating 10,000 professional agents with a focus in the area and investing 1 billion yuan ($150 million) in rural tourism industry funds.
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