Overseas snow sports industry eyes the untapped China market opportunity brought by the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics
Beijing Winter Olympics accelerating industry growth
Published: Feb 24, 2021 05:23 PM

A skier participates in a snow game in Zhangjiakou, North China's Hebei Province on Monday. Photo: VCG

From ski manufacturers to snow log makers, winter sports industries from all over the world are optimistic about the huge market opportunities brought by the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics despite some foreign politicians' threat to boycott the games.

The Chinese ski market is getting ready to burst and the upcoming 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics is expected to create an opportunity to grow this untapped market,  sports enterprises including those from the US and Finland told the Global Times.

Seizing opportunities

Despite the set-back that COVID-19 has created for the global snow sports industry, China is to be a viable marketplace for US winter sports brands in the future, Nick Sargent, President of Snowsports Industries America (SIA) told the Global Times on Monday.

"We foresee that the Olympics will continue to energize the enthusiasm for winter sports in China and help create greater demand for winter sports products. Many of our members are currently in China, whether it be hard goods or soft goods focused on resort-based winter activities, many are looking at more urban, winter fashion opportunities as well," Sargent said.

The organization had made their last trade mission to China in December 2019 and much of its China-specific programming is on hold due to the COVID-19 challenges faced by the industry in the US.

"However, this spring we hope to return to educating the members on the opportunities that exist in China through relationships that we have built with resorts and local governments through the US Department of Commerce, Commercial Services and the US Embassy," Sargent said.

As one of SIA members to participate in the association's trade missions to China, Jim Satloff, founder and chairman of ski manufacturer Liberty Skis was offered a glimpse into China's burgeoning winter sports industry and the massive demand for overseas goods and services.

Satloff, who has been working with counterparts in the Chinese snow sports industry for years, foresees a growing equipment rental demand, growth in winter sports instruction and education, followed by a market for the sale of product and a significant growth in the tourism industry related to winter sports as a result of China's hosting of the 2022 games.

"Not only a source of pride for the Chinese population, the winter Olympics in China should also stimulate additional participation in winter sports by ordinary Chinese citizens," Satloff told the Global Times on Saturday.

"We would like to increase our presence in the Chinese market. More likely, we will focus on the higher-end [but smaller] segment of the Chinese market, which is those experienced winter sports participants who wish to own their own equipment."

Suomen Biathlon, a Finnish producer of shooting targets for biathlon events in Olympics, has also identified great business opportunities in the upcoming Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

Marko Kurvinen, director of Suomen Biathlon, said the company has participated and on the bidding process for 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games and 2022 Beijing Paralympics and is currently involved in organizing the Biathlon shooting range at 2022 Biathlon Test event.

Currently, they are testing their electronic shooting targets, timing and scoring system, and also providing training services for the operators of the devices in China in preparation for the Olympic Games started.

"We will do our part to help to organize the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic games professionally while cooperating with the many additional companies who have also been selected to make the games an experience for all," said Kurvinen.

Winter sports in general have quickly gained in popularity in China with China's snow tourism continues to show explosive growth - even under adverse conditions created by the pandemic.

Huge potential

China's ice and snow leisure tourism is expected to expand to 230 million people with a revenue of 390 billion yuan ($60.37 billion) during the ice season of 2020-21, according to "China ice and snow tourism development report 2021" released in January.

In addition to creating additional participation in winter sports China has also pledged to build venues, develop alpine resorts, ski tracks and ice rinks, a massive opportunity for the up-stream industry and facility providers.

According to the "ice and snow sports development plan (2016-25)", the total scale of China's ice and snow industry has reach 600 billion yuan in 2020 and will reach 1 trillion yuan in 2025.

Taking a subdivision field as an example, China boasted 40 characteristic ice and snow towns in 2020 from 26 in 2017. The number of ski resorts is expected to double from 568 in 2015 to 1,000 by 2022. The number of national standard skating venues has increased to 388 from 157 five years ago. 

Tuomas Saarelainen, general manager of Honka, a Finnish log house company told the Global Times that The Beijing Winter Olympic Games will open up a huge and fast-growing market for ecological log buildings.

The Finnish company already has several projects in skiing resorts in China, offering hotels and public buildings for ski resorts, B2B projects related to ice and snow tourism and Finnish-type winter sports towns. 

"Our local partners have already built many resorts, like for example the Honka Metsa Ski Resort in Changbai Mountain in Northeast China's Jilin Province, and the Finnish 1473 Cafe in Haituo Valley near the Yanqing Alpine Ski Center in Beijing. We are very interested in developing the area together with our partners," Saarelainen said.

Tomi Hukari, vice president of Icepro, a Finnish winter sports equipment manufacturer, focusing on ice rinks and making internationally certified Dasher boards also envisioned a market for ice hockey facilities brought by the winter Olympics.

"We have delivered through our network the superb ice hockey dasher board system to training facility in South Square, an underground ice hall just beside Water Cube. We really hope that customers and users notice the quality and that it will lead to inquiries and new projects," Hukari told the Global Times.

"President Xi Jinping's bold vision to encourage 300 million Chinese to become winter sports participants is definitely having a positive impact on how Chinese citizens think about winter sports," Satloff said "This growth in interest will almost certainly result in China becoming a viable marketplace."
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