A successful Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics could lead to a marked increase in Chinese winter sports tourism, with experts suggesting that European ski resorts may need to adapt to cater for new demands.
A recent white paper by the China Tourism Academy highlighted the fast-paced growth of winter sports in China in recent years, while European resorts have already experienced a sizeable increase in mainland arrivals since Beijing was awarded the 2022 Games in 2015, the South China Morning Post reports.
"Since Beijing won the bid for the Winter Olympics, the whole industry has received unprecedented attention, and many investments, as well as promotions, have boosted visitor numbers," Bastite Pilet, promotions manager for China at Switzerland Tourism, was quoted as saying in recent media reports.
"Not only has the number and quality of ice and snow facilities grown, the number of snow sports enthusiasts has risen too."
The academy report, "2021 China Ice and Snow Tourism Development", said ice and snow sports in China were expected to attract 230 million visits in the 2020-2021 winter seasons, with expected turnover of RMB390 billion (£43 billion/$60 billion/ €60 billion).
It said China’s total investment in the sector exceeded RMB900 billion (£100 billion/$138 billion/ €116 billion) in the past three years, with the bulk of that amount being spent in 2018 and 2019.
The number of ski resorts in China grew more than 67 per cent in 2019, to 770, when compared to 2014, while the number of skiers rose to 13.95 million in 2019.
Ski visits in 2019 rose by 103 per cent over the five years to 20.9 million.
Olivier Sedlinger, a veteran China travel consultant and founder of tourism marketing consultancy Sedlinger and Associates, said European resorts hoping to benefit from this upsurge in interest would need to adopt "Chinese characteristics" to attract mainland tourists.
"In the Chinese market today, it is clear that skiing has become a common interest and a lifestyle activity," Sedlinger said.
"It is attracting more and more Chinese consumers, including many beginners.
"A new breed of skier in China, looking for specific qualities commonly found in an international destination, can also bring their own ideas, habits and requirements and offer a lot of potential to these destinations if they are willing and able to embrace it.
"Destinations that follow a long-term plan and are able to build a consistent and credible brand, as well as stand out from the competition, will eventually succeed and become popular with Chinese and other Asian consumers."
Austrian officials say the country welcomed 55,000 Chinese arrivals in the winter of 2009-2010 but that rose to 345,000 two years ago.
Swiss Tourism said Chinese tourists spent 200,974 overnight stays at mountain destinations in the winter of 2018-19, an increase of almost 539 per cent compared to the same period a decade earlier.
Wolfgang Arlt, director of the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute, said resorts need to cater to the often "unique" requirements of Chinese winter tourists.
"They are very different," Arlt said.
"A few may be so preoccupied with their sport that they stay on the slopes all day, but most will only ski for one to two hours and spend the rest of the time doing other things.
"Due to lack of time, most Chinese will only stay one or two days on skis.
"They are also attracted to other activities such as sightseeing and shopping."
The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are now less than 11 months away, due to begin on February 4.