China’s ski industry is taking off

The growing popularity of adventure tourism is among the factors influencing China’s recent nationwide passion for winter sports. China is due to host the Winter Olympics in Beijing in 2022, and as a result, Chinese President Xi Jinping is attempting to convert 300 million Chinese people to winter sports. The 2014/2015 winter season evidenced a 21% increase in the number of visitors to China’s ski resorts from the previous year, with around 12,500,000 skiers. Despite this, the Chinese ski market is currently an eighth of the size of the US’s, and one sixteenth of Europe’s. Evidently, China’s ski industry has a long way to go before measuring up with the high standard set by Europe, and a short time to achieve this.

However, as we know from other initiatives, such as football and Olympic sports, when the Chinese President gets behind tourism, you can expect great results.

Walking on thin ice

According to a study of the Chinese ski industry, showcased at the Asia Pacific Snow Conference during Beijing’s ISPO/ALPITEC exhibition, China now has around 568 ski resorts, with 108 of them having been built in 2015. However, only 122 of these have ski lifts.

With only five years until countries worldwide flock to China to compete in winter sports’ biggest event, the Chinese government is engaged in a mad rush to expand its domestic ski industry. Financial Times reports the Chinese government has invested $11 billion USD into the redevelopment of Chongli, a popular district for winter activities, in the hope of establishing it as the centre of the Chinese ski industry. Chongli’s Thaiwoo ski resort is receiving extensive redevelopment – by its completion, it aims to have 200 ski slopes, measuring 138km in length, 21 magic carpets, and 45 ski lifts. In addition, the Fulong Four Seasons Town, a massive complex encompassing a 750,000 square metre ski venue with a collection of hotels and shopping areas, opened in Chongli last December.

This massive scope extends beyond the upcoming Winter Olympics, as China aims to have 1,000 ski resorts by 2030, double the current number. This is considering China’s relatively weak snowfall compared to previous Winter Olympics hosts, with the government having to supply fake snow for its Zhangjiakou and Yanqing venues because they receive only 25cm of snow per year.

China’s lack of snowfall is considered a major issue going forward by Switzerland Global Enterprise, who claim international suppliers could benefit from the fact that, in 2015, China imported 3,500 of a total 4,000 sets of snow making machines.

With great powder comes great responsibility

As China develops new ski resorts nationwide and overseas, it has been witnessing a rise in the number of indoor skiing activities. Back in July, the world’s biggest indoor ski slope, which spans 800,000 square metres, opened at a Chinese ski resort in Harbin. In addition, in 2015, 3.2 million Chinese people went indoor skiing in their home country. This implies China is pushing for its people to have affordable and year-round access to skiing, attracting families as well as enthusiasts.

Skiing is on the up-and-up

The Chinese government has paid close attention to the rise of Chinese adventure tourism, demonstrated by recent developments such as the construction of a $14.7 million dollar visitors complex at the base of Nepal’s Mt. Everest. This will accommodate a hotel, a mountaineering museum, and shops to buy climbing supplies.

Fourteen ski resorts in Switzerland have begun capitalising on the prediction that China will become the largest winter sports market worldwide by offering ski lessons in Chinese. Switzerland Tourism, the country’s national marketing organisation, offers Chinese tourists ski trip packages which bundle together gear rental, tickets and lessons, making their travel experience more comfortable and convenient.

New Zealand is also broadening the international appeal of its adventure tourism activities. The country’s national tourism institution, Tourism New Zealand, recently partnered with Air China and Beijing Ski Association to push New Zealand as “the perfect counter season ski destination for Chinese skiers”. This promotional campaign prompted an increase in the number of Air China passengers travelling to New Zealand in 2017, from 3% in July, to 9% in August.

In addition, a 2017 Chinese Ski Insights Survey, conducted by Club Med and TripAdvisor, found that, out of 3,357 Chinese respondents, 37% had visited another Chinese city to ski, and 18% had travelled abroad to destinations including Japan, South Korea, and Switzerland.

While Chinese officials are doing all they can to increase visitors to Chinese ski resorts, international tourism operators are hoping the push for skiing domestically will lead to a rise in the numbers of Chinese tourists skiing in Europe and North America. Global ski resorts would do well to start preparing for this inevitable influx and get their destinations on the Chinese tourist map as soon as possible.

If you are involved in winter sports and you want to attract more Chinese visitors, please contact us for a chat.

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Thanks to our Account Director Vivienne Song for the wonderful photo of her and her friends at a ski resort.

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