Forest tourism rising as pandemic wanes

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Forest tourism in China is witnessing an encouraging recovery and is expected to grow steadily in the coming months, the National Forestry and Grassland Administration revealed on Thursday.

An administration official told a news conference that 50 million visits were made to forests and parks during this year's National Day holiday-about half the number during the same period last year.

Although it suffered a setback due to the COVID-19 pandemic, China's forest tourism has been recovering steadily, said Zhang Jianmin, director of the administration's ecotourism management office.

In the third quarter, visits nearly doubled from the previous quarter to 214 million, about 45 percent of the number in the third quarter of last year.

"The recovery trend may continue in the following three months," Zhang said.

China has encouraged eco-friendly tourism in recent years, and the administration has given stronger policy support to forest tourism.

Thanks to those efforts, activities including nature exploration and education, mountain sports and ice and snow tourism have attracted a large number of people.

The administration said 6 billion forest tourism visits were recorded in China between 2016 and 2019, with an annual growth rate of 15 percent.

The economic value of forest tourism last year was about 1.75 trillion yuan ($261 billion).

Since 2017, the administration has released regional plans on building national forest hiking trails. Many trails are in mountains famous for their eye-catching natural scenery, including the Qinling Mountains, Wuyi Mountain, Tianmu Mountain, the Taihang Mountains and Lesser Hinggan Mountains.

Twelve national forest hiking trails with a total length of 22,000 kilometers have been unveiled, and the construction of forest hiking trails was included in a revised version of China's Forest Law last year.

Forest tourism has helped many people in remote areas escape poverty. In 2018, more than 1.47 million people living below the poverty line saw their annual income increase by an average of 5,500 yuan due to forest tourism.

"We conducted a public survey in recent years that showed hiking has been widely accepted as a popular sport, especially among urban residents," Zhang said. "The potential of the green economy, especially forest tourism, is promising."

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