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2017 Year in Review: Rapid development in Chinese winter sports

By Chen Yaping 29 Jan 2018

Guided by the ambitious goal for ‘300 million people on the ice’, China will take the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics and the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics as important opportunities to boost its winter sports industry over the next five years. 

According to the Ice and Snow Sports Development Plan (2016-2025), the country aims to directly engage more than 50 million participants in winter sports and make the market reach one trillion yuan, or $144.5 billion by the year 2025.

As shown in the 2017 China Ski Industry White Paper, published by several Chinese companies and led by Beijing Carving Winter Sports Industry Research Institute, there were 17.5 million Chinese people involved in the industry, highlighting the conclusion that China is still the biggest basic-level ski market. 

In other words, aside from dry skiing and simulated skiing places, the number of domestic ski resorts has reached 703, representing an 8.82 percent year-on-year growth. The year also saw the establishment of 12 indoor ski resorts, bringing the total number to 21 at the end of 2017.

Chinese real estate companies including Vanke, Dalian Wanda, Zhonghong Stocks and Luneng Group have embraced winter sports in recent years. For example, after investing in Songhua Lake Holiday Resort in Jilin Province, Vanke set up its Winter Sports Department marking an official entry into the snow and ice sports industry. According to their long-term plan, Vanke is looking to establish an Asian-based ski and mountain sports holiday service group by 2022, striving to turn itself into a leader in the Chinese market.

Their rivals, Dalian Wanda, have already built a portfolio for hosting the top international winter sporting events through the purchase of Infront Sports & Media in 2016. At the same time, the overwhelming presence in theme park operations will also help the property giants expand its winter sports businesses.

Other companies have also made the decision to take a slice of the cake. Alisports, the sports unit of Chinese e-commerce group Alibaba, announced a cooperation agreement with the International Ski Federation (FIS) in June 2017, aiming to use a new initiative to reach 30 million Chinese snow sports participants.

The sports media company, Tencent Sports, expanded its winter sports broadcast by acquiring an awesome amount of media rights from the PyeongChang 2018 Games, NHL, KHL, ISU, the Air & Style, Stars on Ice to X-Games. In detail, the media company has the rights to provide live broadcasts for short track speed skating, speed skating, figure skating and HC Kunlun Red Star.

As the official partner of the Chinese Olympic Committee, the media company also launched a winter sports plan to engage more active participants. On this note, Tencent Sports also sent a team of about 400 reporters to PyeongChang, just as they did during the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“Generally speaking, we view these mega sports events as accelerators for growing attendance and engaging users.” Said Chen Juhong, a vice-president of Tencent Sports, at a summit held at the beginning of 2018.

Take ice hockey as an example, in 2016, there were 2,736 registered players in Beijing, much higher than 455 in 2012. In this regard, sports media has shown an increase in interest in the sport through reaching a five-year strategic partnership with the National Hockey League (NHL). Bill Daly, vice president of the NHL remarked that the deal would help the development of the sport in the world’s largest economy.

“A sustainable winter sports industry is based on consumer expenditure for experiences as a way of life instead of one-off consumption,” said Lin Xianpeng, a sports industry professor from Beijing Sport University.

Xu Xinwen, marketing director of the Beijing Nanshan Ski Village once said that, after Beijing won the bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics in July 2015, Chinese people became more enthusiastic about skiing.

As the Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development estimated, the number of local ski resorts reached a record 84,000 visitors in 2016, an 8.6 percent growth compared to 2015. While according to the online tourist service platform Lvmama, during the three-day New Year’s holiday in 2018, the number of travelers heading to major winter tourism destinations increased by more than 150 percent over last year.

As an important part for Beijing 2022, China is ambitiously encouraging 300 million people to participate in winter sports.

Proofread by William Logsdon

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