Jian Jie stopped her motor home by Qinghai Lake, China's largest inland saltwater lake, and took out the food she had prepared to make hotpot with her family.
"It's really an unforgettable experience to have such a gourmet meal in nature," said Jian, a resident of Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province.
Jian spent more than 1,000 yuan ($147) a day to rent the recreational vehicle. It contains almost everything required for daily life: bed, bathroom, kitchen, TV and refrigerator.
"Compared with hotel arrangements, RV travel is more cost-effective and suitable for a family trip," she said. "And the best part of RV travel is the freedom."
Affordability, convenience and personal freedom have made RV travel increasingly popular among Chinese tourists.
Zhang Shiqi, general manager of the Gansu Guantianxia travel agency, said there were more than 400 RVs on offer in Xining, the capital of Qinghai province, and Lanzhou, including 140 by her company, and all of the vehicles had been reserved in early September.
"Affected by the COVID-19 epidemic, many tourists no longer choose to go on organized tours, and RV travel has gained traction with complete facilities and a unique experience," Zhang said.
Northwestern China is sparsely populated and Gansu spans more than 1,600 kilometers from east to west, over 400 km greater than the distance between Beijing and Shanghai, making the advantages of RV travel readily apparent.
Gansu is home to more than 20 RV campgrounds. However, Jian said that compared with the mature RV market in Europe, maintenance and after-sales services for RVs in northwestern China are still insufficient.
Many Chinese know of RVs from the 1998 movie Be There or Be Square.
"RV tourism is still at the initial development stage in northwestern China," Zhang said, adding that she sees a bright future for its expansion as tourism consumption is upgraded.
"On one hand, the number of campgrounds is increasing, and their management is improving; on the other hand, enterprises are trying to introduce more people to RVs through auto shows and test drives," she said.
Data from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism has revealed a positive trend in the recovery and development of China's tourism industry, with epidemic control measures in place.
In July and August, all tourist resorts around the country reopened, and tourist numbers and revenue figures recovered to about 90 percent of last year's level.
Regions including Gansu and Qinghai provinces and the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region are building RV campgrounds and improving services for tourists traveling by RV.
"RV travel creates a new lifestyle, and I like it very much," Jian said.
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