China’s winter sports boom opens new path for China-EU cooperation – Xinhua

Chinese athlete Gu Ailing competes in the women’s freestyle skiing halfpipe final of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou, north China’s Hebei province, 18 February 2022 (Xinhua/Yang Shiyao)

— European manufacturers of professional winter sports equipment and gear find their presence at Beijing venues a rewarding business.

— As more Chinese take to the slopes, European countries see plenty of opportunities to attract mass tourists and winter sports enthusiasts to their renowned ski resorts, especially after the heavy blow of the pandemic on tourism worldwide.

— “China will soon be a leading nation in winter sports, perhaps not quickly in terms of overall medal count, but in terms of participants and global influence,” an industry insider said. .

ROME, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) — Hosting the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics has given the Chinese people a better understanding of the lure of ice and snow, and this grand event has been a catalyst for a booming winter sports economy in China and beyond.

The trend opens a new avenue for Alpine countries and others in Europe, which boast a splendid history of snow culture, to derive mutual business benefits with the Chinese market.

Even after the luster of this year’s Winter Olympics dies down, European pundits and business insiders expect vast ground ahead of them, saying China’s continued involvement in winter sports will give new impetus to the long-term cooperation between Europe and China.

SHOWCASE TO THE WORLD

The Olympic Games not only involve sporting competition at the highest level, but also the competition between equipment manufacturers behind the scenes. European manufacturers of professional gear and equipment find their presence at Beijing sites a rewarding business.

Maurizio Tedesco, who works in the public relations department of Italian equipment maker Leitner, said that for companies like Leitner, the Olympics can be a “showcase on the world”.

A visitor looks at gears for winter sports at the World Winter Sports Expo (Beijing) 2019 in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 17, 2019. (Xinhua/Ju Huanzong)

With a 134-year history, Leitner is a leading manufacturer of snow groomers, ski lifts and funiculars. In 2019, it won a tender to supply a fleet of snow groomers for the Beijing Winter Olympics. These vehicles are used on the tracks during the games.

“It’s the best way to be seen as a high-quality supplier,” Tedesco told Xinhua. “It’s one of the reasons we work so hard to refine and develop our products.”

Other Italian companies playing a big role in the Beijing Winter Olympics include TechnoAlpin, which supplies machines to make artificial snow, and iconic fashion brand Giorgio Armani, which produced the uniforms for the Italian team.

The German company Schneestern participated in the design and construction of a Great Wall-shaped snow slope for slopestyle events at the Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou, as well as at the Big Air Shougang in Beijing, venue for the competitions of BigAir.

“I am still delighted that we have come this far with our sport,” company founder and former freeskier Dirk Scheumann told German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung in an interview.

PLACEMENT ON THE CHINESE MARKET

As more and more Chinese take to the slopes, European countries see many opportunities to attract mass tourists and winter sports enthusiasts to their renowned ski resorts, especially after the severe blow of the COVID-19 pandemic on tourism worldwide.

Chamonix-Mont-Blanc in southeastern France was the site of the first Winter Olympics in 1924. The town’s economy relies heavily on winter tourism.

“Tourism is the main economic activity in the Chamonix valley,” Nicolas Durochat, director of the valley’s tourist office, told Xinhua, adding that nearly 45 percent of their customers are foreigners.

Skiers enjoy sports at Changbaishan Ski Resort in northeast China’s Jilin Province, Nov. 15, 2021. (Xinhua/Xu Chang)

“The Winter Olympics are an absolute catalyst for the sport,” and the number of Chinese people coming to ski there has obviously increased in recent years, Durochat said. “I’m sure this is just the beginning, when the health crisis is over and travel restrictions are lifted, more Chinese will come here to ski.”

The pandemic has hit the Swiss tourism industry hard, said Simon Bosshart, head of eastern markets at Switzerland Tourism.

“The business has come to a halt. We’re at about 2% of the activity we had in 2019… Our team has been on the ground for two years now and a lot of events just couldn’t be executed,” said Bosshart said.

Bosshart said the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics have opened up huge business opportunities for the landlocked mountainous country.

“The need is there, and we absolutely believe in that potential in the future,” Bosshart said.

NOT AN END POINT

The Chinese people’s enthusiasm for the Olympics for excitement on snow and ice is not a short-lived craze, but will boost the long-term growth of the winter sports industry, noted European companies and observers.

According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, 346 million Chinese, nearly a quarter of the country’s population, had participated in ice and snow sports as of October 2021.

Travel related to ice and snow tourism is expected to reach 305 million during the 2021-2022 ice and snow tourism season, according to a recent report released by the China Tourism Academy (CTA) and Mafengwo, a travel service and a social networking platform.

Ice and snow tourism will become a major driver of China’s winter tourism and ice and snow economy, with total revenue expected to exceed 1.1 trillion yuan ($157.8 billion) from by 2025, according to the CTA.

“We believe that even beyond the Olympics, the growth trend of winter sports in China will continue,” Christian Gut, director of sales and marketing at Stockli Swiss Sports, told Xinhua.

“In recent years, we have seen massive investments in the Chinese market, in the country’s ski resorts,” said the leader of the leading Swiss ski producer. “China has the potential to become one of the biggest markets in the world in the years to come.”

A Bing Dwen Dwen, mascot of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, interacts with the audience ahead of the Individual Nordic Combined Gundersen Large Hill/10km ski jumping competition at the National Ski Jumping Center in Zhangjiakou, Guangdong Province of Hebei (north China), Feb. 15, 2022 (Xinhua/Liu Chan)

European nations are considering close cooperation with China in the winter sports industry.

Bosshart said Switzerland Tourism will focus on four areas in China: snow sports communities and influencers, cooperation with the winter sports industry such as ski resorts and fitness centers, tours and packages. classics and media promotion.

The Beijing Winter Olympics also offer inspirations for future Olympic bids. “Beijing 2022 is a good example of coexistence between emerging and classic sports,” said Spanish sports newspaper Diario AS. “This new world has allowed less traditional countries, like Spain, to fight for challenges that were once distant.”

Hermann Winkler, co-founder of ski training company Snow 51, noted that China has a relatively young history for many winter sports, but the market is growing rapidly and very dynamically, and has the potential to double the global winter sports market and its community. .

“China will soon be a leading nation in winter sports, perhaps not quickly in terms of the number of medals, but in terms of participants and global influence. The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are a point starting point, not an end point,” he said.

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