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The Chinese Ski Market: between the COVID-19 and the Winter Olympics

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

February 5, 2022

The Chinese ski market: A huge market in the run-up to the Olympics

By 2022, for the Winter Olympics, most ski events will take place at Chongli Station. 76 billion yuan investment was planned on the site! The work will be huge because China starts from scratch (or almost). The strength of the Chinese market is that it is at its peak right now. The excitement around this sport is yet to be at its peak, the planned investments are huge, and the number of skiers continues to grow. This market is more promising than ever! Chinese ski resorts should even catch up with those of Switzerland (in terms of profit) within two years.

According to data from a report on the Chinese ski industry, in 2019, there are 28 new ski resorts built in China, including 5 indoor ski resorts. As of the end of 2019, there were 155 ski resorts with lifts among the total 770 ski resorts around the country, up from 149 in 2018, a 4.03 percent gain. The number of skiers in China climbed by 6.09 percent year on year, from 19.7 million to 20.9 million in 2019.

Favourable Conditions for skiing China

While the population was not always ready for the arrival of skiing in China, the country was still adapted to this practice. We must not forget that China is the third-largest country in the world! His landscapes are very varied. Two-thirds are mountainous, with peaks of up to 8000 meters.

The conditions of the country are therefore totally favourable to make this sport a huge business in China. Only the population was not ready. While a slight interest began in 1996 during the Asian Winter Games in Yabuli (not far from Harbin), the real turning point came in when Beijing was elected as the host city of the Olympics in 2015.

A craze for skiing encouraged by the government

President Xi Jinping has organized a large national-level plan to promote winter sports. The numbers have fallen, the goal to reach is 300 million followers by 2022 (including 120 million skiers). This would allow the country to have more and more athletes and maximize their chances of medals at the Games. Which is a bet far from being won due to the lack of winter sports culture in China.

While they shine during the Summer Olympics, their success at the Winter Games remains mixed and the country wants to turn the tide in 2022. But it is also the opportunity to boost the economic momentum of the North-East provinces. Thanks to the new “winter tourism”. Because these provinces are in crisis since deindustrialization. The tourist attraction of these could thus save them. Skiing is even promoted in schools to encourage the interest of the inhabitants from the youngest age.

President Xi Jinping inspects the preparations for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

The COVID-19 impact on the Chinese ski market at the beginning of 2020

According to industry rules, ski visits between the Spring Festival and March will account for 40%-50% of the entire snow season. At the same time, affected by the weather, a large part of outdoor snow resorts are only open in mid-to-late December 2019, and some snow resorts may even complete their first snowmaking in early January and this is not the end of the story.

According to the estimation of the report mentioned earlier, the number of skiers in 2020 will drop to around 11 million, a year-on-year decrease of 47.37%. According to the conservative estimation of the growth rate of skiers in various ski resorts in 2019, the short-term loss of income caused by the epidemic to Chinese ski resorts is about 6.68 billion yuan. If other possible losses are considered, the overall economic loss will exceed RMB 8 billion.

However, as the epidemic control in China continues to take effect, many industries in China start to recover, including domestic tourism. Moreover, even the outbound tourism is shut down, the outbound tourism industry doesn’t stop capturing Chinese people’s attention. During the epidemic, game rules have changed, those who can successfully catch these development opportunities are expected to take the lead in the market recovery and build a competitive advantage.

The Chinese ski market is promising for foreign businesses in two aspects

With the increasing affluence and the promotion of the government, the number of skiers in China continues to go up. More and more Chinese people are interested in skiing. The market is giant for foreign businesses in two aspects:

  • Attractions for Chinese skiing tourists.

  • Sales of ski equipment in China;

  • Sales of ski equipment through cross-border e-commerce to China;

Indeed, China has ski resorts, but there are still a lot of people who like to go skiing abroad. Why?

Why do Chinese people like to go skiing abroad?

One of the reasons is the cost-effectiveness of skiing abroad. It refers to the overall experience of comprehensive prices, accommodation, complete surrounding facilities, and the quality and the design of the resort. After decades or even hundreds of years of development, the foreign ski resort system is more complete and stable.

Moreover, Even in Northeast China, the ski resorts are basically man-made and there is little natural snow. Even if artificial snow is added, there is not as much snow in the Alps and the snow is harder and more compact in those Chinese resorts. In addition, the slopes in China are shorter and less. The altitude difference largely determines the length of the slope. There are many ski resorts with a drop of more than 2000 meters in foreign ski resorts, and there are more than 20 ski resorts of this kind in the Alps alone! In contrast, in China, there are only about 20 ski resorts with a vertical drop of more than 300 meters.

Last but not least, compared with the Chinese coach fee of more than one thousand yuan for half a day ($200CDN), learning to ski abroad is actually very cheap and high-quality!

Top ski resorts that Chinese skiers prefer

According to statistics, in 2018, overseas ski travel increased by about 50% year-on-year. Data from Ctrip’s – China’s largest OTA (Online Travel Agency) showed that the number of tourists who signed up for the ski and snow route has increased by more than 70% from the previous month in 2018. Especially tourists from southern cities such as Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, etc., have recently been very interested in ski and snow tours.

Ski destinations on Ctrip – China’s largest OTA

In terms of destinations, the most popular ski and snow tourism for Chinese tourists are Japan, Switzerland, Russia, Finland, the United States, France, Sweden, Iceland, Norway, and Austria and increasingly Canada.

The top ten most popular ski and snow destinations are Hokkaido (Japan), Interlaken (Switzerland), Reykjavik (Iceland), Helsinki (Finland), Lake Baikal (Russia), Rovaniemi (Finland), Alaska (United States), Aomori (Japan), Stockholm (Sweden), Geneva (Switzerland).

Outbound snow skiing is becoming more and more popular, and airlines are also seeing the demand of tourists and opening new destination routes, and they have gradually attracted the attention of Chinese skiers and other winter tourists.

Imported ski equipment are highly in demand in China

At present, although China’s ski equipment industry has certain development, there are still problems such as small industrial scale, few well-known brands, imperfect industrial chain, low product level, and low added value.

In addition, due to scandals that happened in many industries in China, Chinese consumers prefer to purchase imported ski equipment, as they are perceived as of good quality and of good cost-efficiency.

Foreign ski equipment companies have advantages in terms of market concentration, market share, brand recognition, and independent innovation.

How to get the Chinese ski market?

Nothing to do during the COVID-19? You are completely wrong!

Like what has been explained before, during the epidemic, tourism is undergoing a difficult period, however, companies still need to respond quickly to public opinions, and this is the best time for interaction with targets.

Question & reply about where to travel to after the epidemic on Mafengwo

For example, even when Chinese visitors are unable to travel due to the pandemic, Mafengwo - China's largest tourism social media platform – continues to actively engage its users through content and community. The platform has created a wishing activity called "#theplacetogoaftertheepidemic." Users can jot down their desired location on the page and broadcast it in real-time to share with others.

Businesses may increase user stickiness and generate leads in this manner. Once the borders are opened, tourist companies that were well-prepared throughout the outbreak can immediately respond to capture those potential targets and devise appropriate vacation plans for them.

Use e-commerce platforms to boost your visibility and credibility

If you are a ski equipment brand you might consider selling your products through Chinese e-commerce platforms before building a store in the nation. Indeed, the majority of skiers are still novices and will prefer to rent their equipment.

The internet's first approach is recommended. Tmall and control the great majority of e-commerce in China, so using them for simple visibility and credibility with the Chinese makes sense.

Digital marketing on social networks and OTAs

Social networks are the most effective approach to developing a community. If you currently have a sizeable community following you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms, you should be aware that this is not a sufficient base. The Great Firewall of China will block all Western networks, forcing you to come to theirs and sign up.

Posts and products about skiing by a ski KOL on Weibo – China’s largest open social media

Being visible on every Chinese social media platform, such as WeChat, Weibo, and Xiaohongshu, may increase brand awareness, which is critical in China because Chinese people do not buy unknown companies.

As mentioned previously in the post, Chinese OTAs may also help you advertise your ski resorts because those platforms bring together people who share your interests (traveling). This allows you to reach a more specific audience.

Partner with Chinese athletes to promote your brand exposure

The future professional skiers who will represent China in the Olympic Games will become idols to a generation of Chinese who are interested in winter sports for the first time. As a result, you must collaborate with them to support and promote your brand.

Their community will rapidly recognize you as a brand and regard you as a reliable source of high-quality goods. Because Chinese customers have little faith in advertising, it is critical for your brand to create a positive reputation in China. They place greater emphasis on the opinions of their entourage or prominent individuals.

If you need a professional agency to help you get into these Chinese networks, call NWITC GROUP of companies!


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