Winter sports market in China

The 1st China International Winter Sports Industry Conference and Exhibition in Beijing provided an overview of the Chinese winter sports market in the run-up of the Olympic Winter Games 2022 in Beijing. With the right know-how and the right partners, there are a lot of opportunities for collaborations and business opportunities for Swiss companies.

wintersport1This autumn the first China International Winter Sports Industry Conference and Exhibition took place in Beijing. The organization was supported by several Swiss organizations like the Swiss Embassy, Swiss Business Hub, SwissCham Beijing and Switzerland Tourism. But also the embassies of France, Austria, Finland and Germany and the tourism bureaus of France, Finland and Italy belonged to the supported organizers. Around 500 participants, interested in winter sports, attended the conference. Three European countries – Austria, Finland and Switzerland – hat the opportunity to present their countries and ski resorts at the conference. The European tourism experts experience a real skiing fever in China since the 2022 Olympic Games announcement and Swiss companies should grab the opportunity for extending their business activities to China.

wintersport2In developing ski areas, China can learn a lot from the European countries with mountains and a long tradition in ski tourism. But we also can learn a lot from the Chinese in using devices. The presented Virtual Reality technology could possibly be interesting to prepare for extreme skiing or freestyle skiing. But it is not only in VR technology where Switzerland can learn from China. The Chinese ski industry uses more modern technologies to enhance the skiing experience. There are many apps helping skiers with various steps of the experience.

Overview sport market in China

The conference provided an overview of the Chinese sports market. Chinese consumers in cities spend around 30% of their disposable income on sport related activities and products. This is equivalent to a real market value of approx. 7,4 billion RMB per year, mostly on football related activities. But there is an increasing high potential in winter sports regarding the Olympic Winter Games 2022 in Beijing.

Over the last several years the sport market grew by 17% per year. It is expected that by the year 2025 500 million people will be involved in jobs that have some relationship to sports. In the last few years tourism as a whole but also the winter tourism has become a mass product. Tourism will become the biggest driver of economic growth in this decade. But companies should start focusing on niche markets to generate the high profits. This might help Swiss companies that are already operating within a niche market. It might be better to increase the services and linked to that the quality instead of growing in size as the increased quality can lead to a more sustainable profit increase.

The Chinese target group

Chinese people who visit a ski resort actually do not only want skiing, therefore Ice and Snow theme parks are needed. Many of the guests want to spend more than one day in a resort, which requires a suitable hospitality concept and the resorts have to become multimode as most of the resorts only generate about 40% of their income with skiing. So far China has only a few ski resorts and they are quite small. Most of the ski resorts are situated in the Dongbei region which includes the province of Heilongjiang.

wintersport4Only 0,4% of the Chinese population currently ski (compared to 2,5% in the US or 20% in Norway), but the number is expected to rise sharply as 2022 approaches. Most of the skiers practiced skiing the first time and 80% of the people only ski once a year. China will improve the skiing experience online and offline. The online experience is an easy one as it quite cheap. The offline experience of course is more expensive as the whole infrastructure has to be set up. But for Swiss companies the offline infrastructure provides a lot of opportunities for collaborations.

Experts in Chinese winter sport resorts

wintersport9An experienced manager of ski resorts is Mr Benno Nager from Secret Garden Resorts. He shared his experiences at the conference. After many years in Switzerland and the US he was hired to manage the Secret Garden Resort in China. This resort is part of the planned Olympic village for the Nordic and Freestyle skiing events. From his experience an important part of a successful resort is its environment. It is useful to build a resort out of existing villages as they have already the needed infrastructure. He pointed out to the fact that if people are living in the village all year round the existing economy will ensure a more sustainable resort. The Olympic village will be built from scratch but if China learns from good and bad examples of ski resorts they can succeed nonetheless. And there are a lot of business possibilities for Swiss companies.

Mr Vincent Vahramian, a ski slope and ski resort architect who worked on approx. 30 resorts in China said, that due to the high percentage of people who spend only one day in a resort, the resorts should not offer too many activities for individuals but rather focus on family activities. If a family spends one day in a resort they would normally not attend individual activities but stay together. Physical activities rather than cultural, such as museums, increase the willingness of returning to the resort. And the resorts should rather focus on events and activities that create a certain atmosphere. This will encourage people to repeat their visits, too.


If a Swiss company would like to analyse or try their market entry into the winter sport market in China, we are happy to help. For those who would like to attend the 2nd China International Winter Sports Industry Conference and Exhibition in 2017, safe the date: 20 – 22 September 2017 in Beijing.


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