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Chinese interest in Europe's winter sport resorts gathering speed

By WANG MINGJIE in London | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-03-11 09:33

Three skiers glide down the snow-covered slopes of the Hochkoenig ski area in Austria this winter season. [Photo provided to China Daily]

During the winter, the alluring destinations of Harbin, Heilongjiang province and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region have witnessed a surge in the number of domestic visitors seeking excitement on the ski slopes.

At the same time, the burgeoning popularity of winter sports in China has meant Chinese skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts have been flocking to Europe's slopes in increasingly large numbers.

Among them, Huang Huihui, a 36-year-old from Wenzhou, East China's Zhejiang province, accompanied two Chinese friends to the Swiss ski village of Davos in January, to experience the thrill of skiing in Europe for the first time.

"We chose to come to Davos because our friend lives in Switzerland and she made the decision to come here, so we all decided to join her," Huang said.

She said skiing in the Alps was enjoyable, with prices similar to those in China and with large ski areas and numerous slopes.

"In China, the emphasis is placed on where to ski, provided one can ski independently," she said. "Skiing in a particular location feels more like embarking on a tourist adventure. We make it a point to try skiing in new places, as travel destinations that combine skiing are more likely to be our preferred future vacation spots."

As the popularity of skiing continues to rise in China, Huang said it is inevitable that more Chinese skiing enthusiasts will visit Europe, to experience skiing there. However, she said, at present, booking accommodation, ski resorts, lift passes, and equipment rentals in Europe can be challenging for most people in China.

The growth in China's skiing community has been largely driven by the Chinese government's efforts to promote winter sports before and after the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Emanuel Lehner-Telic, head of Asia-Pacific markets at the Austrian National Tourist Office, said: "It is a fact that Chinese now belong to the community of winter sports enthusiasts in Europe. Each year, we can observe more and more of our Chinese friends on the alpine slopes."

According to the latest edition of the China Ski Industry White Book, there were 770 operating ski resorts in China during the 2019/20 season, compared to 460 in 2014/15.

However, due to COVID-19 lockdown measures, the number decreased to 697 in 2022/23. Despite this, domestic ski resorts recorded 19.83 million visits in 2022/23, a 66 percent increase compared to the 11.95 million visits in 2014/15, albeit slightly lower than the 21.54 million visits in 2021/2022.

Wu Bin, author of the China Ski Industry White Book, said: "The Chinese ski market is an incremental market for the world and is growing very fast. At present, China has more than 20 million skier visits every year. It can be predicted that after five years, the annual skier visits of China will exceed 40 million, and will gradually close to or even surpass the world's leading United States, France, and Austria."

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