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Lockdowns and border closures have fueled various consumer shifts, but the desire to explore appears undimmed. During the past nearly two years, staying home was widely mandated to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.
It also intensified the craving among Asian consumers to escape towns and cities and discover nature on their own terms. Whether driving, cycling, or hiking, domestic travel was the sole option for much of 2020 and 2021. Grounded solo travelers, couples, and families took every opportunity to traverse their diverse landscapes, often for the first time.
This accelerated some interesting trends. Bicycle and cycling gear sales surged in Vietnam. Demand for camping equipment soared in South Korea, and eCommerce platforms sold high volumes of hiking gear throughout Southeast Asia.
Now, as temperatures drop in Northeast Asia, winter sports take center stage. Sales of skiwear and alpine clothing are projected to skyrocket as China hosts the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
These factors reveal that the “escape to nature economy” is now a year-round force. It will drive interest in brands that cross-cut segments, from athleisure and smart wearables to health supplements and baby travel products.
Hotels and homestays also report that more travelers are taking their pets along for the ride. The good news is that off-track adventure is likely to diversify as borders reopen.
Here are five reasons why nature will be a big travel topic in 2022:
Consumers across Asia have endured long periods of home confinement and domestic travel restrictions. As these restrictions were lifted, many markets witnessed overlapping trends, a surge of travel to rural and coastal spots, and a greater diversity of urban leisure pursuits.
Consequently, online e-marketplaces reported upswings in sales of activewear, outdoor gear, and gadgets for hiking, golfing, and watersports. A recent report by Qianzhan.com valued activewear at over 13 percent of China’s total apparel market in 2020, up from nearly nine percent in 2016. Bicycle sales are booming in Vietnam as consumers take up cycling to explore local parks and nearby natural attractions. Sales of trekking poles have soared in Malaysia and Singapore while ziplining in forests and over rivers has become popular in Laos.
During the pandemic, Asian markets have witnessed a surge in short-drive city escapes. In South Korea, self-drive escapes are popular for mental healing. In Vietnam, weekend trippers enjoy access to tranquil lakes and highland landscapes that were popular with backpackers before the pandemic. Governments in the region are looking to develop self-drive tourism by constructing new highways along coastal routes and into scenic interiors.
This trend provided car rental firms and partner brands with a rare opportunity to focus their promotions exclusively on active domestic tourists. Campervan and camping equipment and furniture makers noted strong sales increases. Restaurants and food brands created camping cuisine video tutorials for first-time campers. Consumers are also upgrading their smart wearables and health tracking apps, stocking up on supplies of medical products, as well as baby and child-travel accessories.
Skiing and enjoying the clean, revivifying alpine air have long been a desirable winter pursuit in Japan and South Korea. Over the past decade, China has also become immersed in the joys of snowy sports.
Interest among the world’s largest population will surge in February 2022, when the Winter Olympics and Paralympics are jointly hosted by Beijing, Zhangjaikou, and Yanqing. It will be the second successive Winter Olympics held in Asia, with the 2018 edition hosted by Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Weekend ski trips from Beijing have been accelerated by a new high-speed rail link to the mountain resort of Zhangjiakou. Sales of skiwear, snowboards, and accessories surged during this year’s 11.11 Singles Day shopping festival as Chinese consumers prepare to hit the slopes.
Meanwhile, Prada launched a fashionable Prada on Ice skiwear line and pop-up shop in Beijing. A report by EUSCME projects the Chinese skiing market is expected to expand from USD 600 million to USD 3.5 billion between 2016 and 2022.
In South Korea, city dwellers decamped to nature spots for extended one-month stays to enjoy remote and quiet nature spots and experience mental healing. Popular getaways include Jeju Island, Gangwon province, and quiet coastal stretches near Busan. This helped diversify domestic tourism during the pandemic and bolster rural economies.
Long-stay escapes are forecast to gain in popularity across the region. Bali in Indonesia has long been a hangout for extended-stays for global and Indonesian travelers. Sri Lanka is planning to introduce a Digital Nomad visa. Langkawi in Malaysia, Hoi An in Vietnam, and Boracay in the Philippines are emerging “workation” destinations appealing to people accustomed to home-working but who want to enjoy life close to the sea and natural beauty.
As borders start to reopen in parts of Asia, overseas vacations are a priority for vaccinated travelers. Family trips are likely to form a big part of travel demand in 2022, but solo travel is a breakout trend in China, South Korea, and Vietnam.
Exploring off-track locations alone during the pandemic enabled single travelers to feel empowered to manage their itineraries. Single vacationers are expected to carry their newfound adventurous spirit, and their proven spending power, with them on overseas trips.
Asian destinations are preparing to welcome off-track travelers. China is actively promoting rural tourism. Malaysia Airlines is developing an online content series featuring natural landscapes, quiet islands, and hillside homestays in places like Penang. The Tourism Authority of Thailand, meanwhile, has advised tourists to reserve their entry tickets to national parks up to 60 days in advance due to expected high demand.