Learning from the international wellness field, Sichuan took the lead in China to put forward the “forest wellness experience” concept in 2015, guiding people to seek a healthy life in forest lands
Thanks to Sichuan’s endeavors, a new wellness tourism mode has emerged in recent years: forest wellness experience. Sichuan was the first to propose this concept in China. The provincial government further issued development plans and construction standards for forest wellness resort, as well as launched the first “forest wellness index” in China. Known as the decoder of forest wellness, Sichuan has been continually giving clearer definitions of this new wellness concept.
Through 20 years of continual efforts, the current forest’s total area in Sichuan has reached 18.4 million hectare, i.e. 38.03% coverage rate, enough to benefit the environment. Then Sichuan people begin to consider how they can let more people experience the true wellness benefits of forest too.
In 2017, Sichuan provincial government brought forest wellness into its top-level design and regarded it as a new momentum for the development of the provincial ecological economy. In October of the same year, the Sichuan Provincial Commission of Rural Affairs issued Implementation Plan for the Development of Ecological Wellness Industry in Sichuan (2018-2022) , setting the development goal: to build up 250 ecological wellness resorts, 100 educational bases, 4,000 ecological wellness households and 5,000 kilometers’ wellness walkways in Sichuan, to offer ecological wellness services to 250 million persons every year, to realize annual production value of RMB 100 billion, and to quicken the pace of building Sichuan as a national forest wellness destination and leader in ecological wellness industry by 2022. Sichuan provincial government opens green channels to the development of forest wellness industry.
At present, over 70% provinces (cities, districts) are learning from Sichuan to develop forest wellness projects. Forest wellness experience has become a social trend.
Below are the basic criteria for a forest wellness resort in Sichuan.
In regard to resources and conditions, the area should be no less than 50 hectares and forest coverage rate over 60%. Forest areas that reach “healthy levels” should be more than 80%. The forest structure and species number should be steady. The resort should be able to offer at least three different kinds of forest vegetables and ecological food.
For infrastructure, the wellness walkways should be more than 4,000 meters and the gradient no more than 7 degrees. There should be at least one medical and health care institute. Necessary environmental monitoring equipment which can show real-time monitoring data is required. Introduction boards and labels should be seen so that people can gain more knowledge of nature and forest land.
In 2016, the Sichuan provincial government issued Resource Conditions for the Construction of Forest Wellness Resort, and Infrastructure Construction at Forest Wellness Resort. Then in 2017, the government issued the regional standard of Assessment of Wellness Forest Construction at Forest Wellness Resort. Xu Jia, who participated in the standard setting, said: “Forest wellness resort is not selling a bed, but to let people stay and truly walk into Nature.”
In December 2017, Sichuan launched the “forest wellness index” and “forest wellness one-card”, the first of its kind in China. The first national forest wellness index shows the temperature, humidity, height, popularity, comfort level and transportation convenience of different forest wellness resorts including Qionghai Lake Wetland Park, Panzhihua Huawu Renjian (Flower Dance) Scenic Area, Mount Emei Qiliping Scenic Area, and more, providing effective dynamic information concerning people’s eating, living, traveling, wellbeing and entertaining aspects.
In April 2018, Sichuan officially set every May as its provincial “forest wellness month” and every May 5 as “ecological wellness day”.
It often happens that forest wellness turns to conventional sight-seeing. Without an accurate development direction, many projects just overly depend on the local resources and shortsightedly seek income through selling expensive tickets. This may result in weaker development momentum as time passes by or even hinder ecological protection.
Thankfully, from the very beginning, Sichuan has set the goal of creating distinctive Sichuan-style forest wellness resorts by measuring up to the local conditions. One of the most attractive projects is the Yuping Mountain forest wellness resort in Hongya County, Sichuan.
Yuping Mountain forest wellness resort is a typical example of the “wellness + tourism” mode. According to Forest Medicine, in coniferous forests, Japanese sugi and hinoki cypress emit the most phytoncide. Yuping Mountain forest wellness resort features 180,000 mu of Japanese sugi introduced from Japan, all of which are over forty years old. Walkways are built in the area where Japanese sugi spread most densely, the gradient is appropriate and the air is fresh. As people walk along the area, they can enjoy the comfort brought by phytoncide and experience a deep relaxation and rejuvenation.
The resort is divided into two sections, one quiet and the other dynamic so that everyone can find the place they like. Middle-aged and old people can practice breathing exercises, meditation, walking, yoga and Taichi while challenge seekers can try unpowered paraglider, powered hang glider, orienteering, mountain cycling, climbing and hiking.
Mount Emei Qiliping forest wellness resort is also a leader in Sichuan’s wellness industry featuring high-end medical services. Before the birth of the forest wellness concept, Qiliping had already set off to develop health industry as early as 2008. It is the first international anti-aging health pilot site in China. Until now, it has signed cooperation contracts with U.S. BUCK Anti-aging Institution, Japan’s Biotherapy Institution (NK cell cancer prevention program), affiliated hospital of Chinese PLA Academy of Military Medical Sciences ( 307 Hospital), and National Clinical Research Center for Geriatric Diseases at West China Hospital of Sichuan University. Now Qiliping has a range of competitive industry chains and industry clusters and has realized a transformation from traditional summer vacation to wellness experience.
Now more and more people are showing interest in forest wellness experiences. But it still needs more study and proof to tell what kinds of forests and programs can deliver true health benefits. Sichuan provincial government has begun to do medical research in Chengdu and Mianyang, as well as carry forward the resort’s environmental monitoring work and issue a forest wellness index. Then, the Sichuan forest wellness special committee will organize experts and member units to deepen technical surveys, forest wellness empirical studies, project assessments, scientific and technological achievement appraisals, carry out forest wellness skill training and academic consultancy, and explore the feasibility of performing prescription treatments and health insurance payments at the resort.
Originated from Sichuan, forest wellness is now coming to more and more tourist provinces and cities. Sichuan keeps striving to perfect its forest wellness experience system, resort construction and scientific research.