BEIJING: With China set to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, interest in winter sports is growing – and not just domestically, as overseas operators see an opportunity to tap into the tourism potential.
According to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China's winter sports industry is expected to be worth one trillion yuan ($144.5bn) by 2025, with 50m people participating directly in these sports.
To take just one sport as an example, the number of ski resorts in China has grown from 80 to more than 500 over the past 15 years, the South China Morning Post reported.
Local resort managers have been travelling overseas to learn from those who have been doing it for far longer. And adventurous tourists are also seeking out the thrills of the ski slope in locations as far afield as Aspen in Colorado.
Seeing how the market is developing, Aspen has moved to build relationships with Chinese mainland ski operators, while also ensuring their amenities are "China ready".
The Aspen Skiing Company has even brought a skiing simulator to Hong Kong to introduce Chinese consumers to the idea of the sport and aspires to having 10% of its visitors from China within ten years – the number of Chinese travellers having doubled within the past few years.
"We've got our eye on this market," said Sonia Bekhaazi, the company's sales and marketing manager, adding that the 2022 Winter Olympics "has definitely moved things along at a rapid speed".
But it's not just winter sports that Chinese consumers are drawn to. The sports tourism market generally is growing at between 30% and 40% a year on some estimates, as people shift their focus from buying products to having experiences.
"I think if you look at snow sports, it's a combination of experience versus product on one side, but also healthy living on the other," explained Erwan Rambourg, global co-head of consumer and retail research at HSBC and author of The Bling Dynasty: Why the Reign of Chinese Luxury Shoppers Has Only Just Begun.
"If you're going skiing, no one's been skiing, so you have bragging rights, you have a story to tell," he added.
Data sourced from China Daily; South China Morning Post; additional content by Warc staff