China expects 'ice and snow' tourism boom ahead of 2022 Olympics 

Games could create millions of new skiers; 'huge opportunity' for ski industry

click to enlarge WWW.SHUTTERSTOCK.COM - beijing boom Genting Olympic resort will host skiing and snowboarding events for the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022. China is expecting the games to attract 340 million ice and snow tourists in the 2021-2022 winter season.
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  • beijing boom Genting Olympic resort will host skiing and snowboarding events for the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022. China is expecting the games to attract 340 million ice and snow tourists in the 2021-2022 winter season.

As Beijing prepares to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, China is predicting a massive boom in ice and snow tourism in the lead-up to the Games.

The country is expecting to welcome 340 million ice and snow tourists in the 2021-2022 winter season, generating a tourism revenue of US$97.6 billion, according to a recently released report from the China Tourism Academy.

For comparison, the country's ice and snow tourists totalled 224 million in winter 2018-19, which itself was a 13.7 per cent increase over 2017-18 figures.

It's a trend that tourism marketing organizations like Destination BC have been watching for a number of years, said CEO Marsha Walden—and one that represents a "huge opportunity" for Canadian ski operators.

"[Whistler Blackcomb] has been quite active in the China market for the past five years, really just having a presence on some of the slopes around China, in looking for Chinese-speaking instructors and also providing lessons and other things," Walden said.

"So there's been a little bit of activity that's been ongoing, but in the last two years I would say it really started to ramp up."

There have also been reports that the 2022 Games could create 30 million new skiers in the world, Walden said.

"That's pretty interesting to us, because that is nearing the population of our country," she said with a laugh.

"It's a huge opportunity. When you think about how quickly you can create a vast number of people interested in snow sports and in winter travel, this is probably the biggest thing to happen in the world in ... probably a decade at least."

From Tourism Whistler's perspective, China currently represents less than one per cent of the market share in both winter and summer.

"China is an emerging market for Whistler with specific growth potential for our winter and ski product, especially leading up to the 2022 Olympic Winter Games," said vice president of destination and market development Karen Goodwin, in an email.

"The market share from China in winter is relatively small at 0.7 per cent and 0.5 per cent in summer; and the growth from this market has been limited over the past five years. Our direct efforts in this market are mostly through trade and media relations and our team partners with Destination Canada and Destination BC promoting Whistler as a lead Canadian ski resort."

While there hasn't necessarily been a "huge uptick on the slopes" in terms of Chinese visitation in recent years, there is still "tremendous interest in Whistler" as a destination, Walden said.

"Chinese visitors are also quite intrigued with things like experiencing the Northern Lights, and seeing the Christmas lights of the city, and some of the things that are just a more general winter experience," she said.

"So more and more tour operators we see adding winter itineraries to their complements of product, but I wouldn't say that we've seen a noticeable uptick yet ... it's the kind of thing where you're kind of tilling the soil for the long term, and as we see the popularity of winter sports and winter travel growing in a market of that size, we really want to just have a presence and be there on the ground floor of it."

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