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Snow tourism set for robust growth

By ZHU WENQIAN | China Daily | Updated: 2023-11-30 09:24

Skiing enthusiasts enjoy their time at a ski resort in Changchun, capital of Jilin province, on Nov 18. WANG QIANG/FOR CHINA DAILY

Business opportunities jump after China optimizes COVID-19 response measures

This winter, or the first skiing season after China optimized its COVID-19 response measures, the ice and snow-related tourism sector in China is poised for strong growth, thanks to momentum sustained from the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics that is well set to stimulate a multibillion-dollar industry, industry experts said.

Since November, with dropping temperatures, online searches for skiing-related products on Qunar, a Beijing-based online travel agency, have jumped three times over October. Meanwhile, the booking volumes of admission tickets to skiing resorts nationwide have surged nearly 150 percent over the same period of 2019, or before the pandemic, Qunar found.

By 2025, the total output value of China's ice- and snow-related sector is forecast to hit 1 trillion yuan ($140 billion), accounting for one-fifth of the total output value of China's sports industry. This year, the figure is expected to reach 890 billion yuan, according to a report released by the Asia Data Group in September.

As the new skiing season gets ready to commence, skiers and snowboarders are eager to hit the slopes again, driven by the realization that this is their first opportunity after the country optimized its COVID-19 response measures late last year.

"The success of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics has further driven the growth of the ice and snow travel sector in China, and an increasing number of people are going on skiing trips," said Zhang Weilin, an analyst at market research provider LeadLeo Research Institute.

"Young Chinese consumers, especially Generation Z consumers, are willing to try something new and challenge themselves. Ice and snow trips satisfy such a demand," Zhang said.

Gen Z consumers refer to people born after 1995 and into the 2000s.

The ice and snow tourism market has seen a significant number of business opportunities, thanks to a long industrial chain that includes snow-making equipment manufacturing, sporting apparel and skills training for skiing-related activities.

"The development speed of China's ice and snow industry has entered a more stable and sustainable stage," said Zhang Li, executive vice-president of Asia Data Group.

The local governments of 26 provinces in China have issued favorable policies to promote the development of ice and snow sports and related sectors, which are expected to further boost the sector.

This winter, the skiing association of Sichuan province in Southwest China plans to organize various events to promote skiing among the local residents. These activities include different types of skiing competitions, indoor and outdoor training for skiing, as well as development of the cultural and tourism market.

During the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) period, Sichuan hopes to build itself into a competitive region for ice and snow sports in South China. It aims to drive more than 10 million local residents to participate in ice and snow sports annually, to take the output value of the sector to more than 30 billion yuan, the local government said.

In September, some 500 companies from over 20 countries participated in the World Winter Sports (Beijing) Expo held at Shougang Park, where the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics venue Big Air Shougang is located.

The countries that took part included Austria, Italy, Finland, New Zealand, Australia and Canada. Local companies showcased their latest technologies, products and services related to skiing at the expo.

Wolfgang Schussel, former chancellor of Austria, who visited the exhibition halls of the winter expo, was all praise for the vigorous development of China's ice and snow industry.

Schussel said each country has unique ice and snow industry resources and sports cultures, and international exchanges and cooperation should be strengthened to further promote the development of the ice and snow sports industry globally.

Liu Jingmin, executive vice-chairman of the Beijing Olympic City Development Association, said ever since the first winter expo was held in 2016, the event has helped promote the development of China's winter sports industry and international exchanges.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand Tourism Board has organized various kinds of skiing promotional events to attract more travelers this year. Currently, the country mainly attracts tourists from Australia, the United States and China.

Since China optimized its COVID-19 response measures, the number of Chinese visitors who have visited New Zealand has grown rapidly.

In July — the winter season in New Zealand — more than 6,400 Chinese visitors stayed for at least 22 days in the country, making up over 40 percent of the total number of Chinese who arrived in the country that month. Some Chinese visitors stayed for eight to 14 days.

Besides, the number of Chinese visitors aged below 15 who arrived in New Zealand in July exceeded 3,800, accounting for 24 percent of the total, becoming the largest age group of visitors, according to the New Zealand Tourism Board.

Italian snow-making equipment company TechnoAlpin, which provides equipment to 90 percent of large-scale ski resorts in China, said it is confident about potential tourists who are expected to go skiing this winter in China. To reiterate, this is the first skiing season after the country optimized its pandemic control measures.

The passenger flows at indoor ski resorts in China have also been significant, and the company said it plans to increase its investments in China. The country currently makes up about 10 percent of its global business. Its equipment includes machines used for ice resurfacing, dust reduction and firefighting.

"We are implementing fully automated management models of ski resorts in China to help them operate more efficiently. The growth potential of China's ice and snow industry is enormous, and we have embraced business opportunities for rapid growth in the Chinese market," said Michael Mayr, sales manager in Asia of TechnoAlpin.

The flow of skiers is expected to be significant this winter, especially in some top skiing destinations such as the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region in Northwest China and Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, in North China.

Zhangjiakou, located about 200 kilometers northwest of Beijing, hosted the snow sports events of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. High-speed trains that connect Beijing to Zhangjiakou have shrunk travel time from four hours to about an hour.

In October, a number of ski resorts in Xinjiang started operating and welcomed the first group of skiers. These resorts have newly built skiing trails and facilities such as cable cars and snowmobiles to cater to the growing demand.

Altay in Xinjiang, widely acclaimed as the "Snow Capital of China", said it will open six new luxury hotels during the skiing season of 2023 and 2024.

The local government has provided more buses and taxis to ensure the smooth functioning of the skiing tourism market during the season.

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