Plot­ting a course for greater num­bers on the slopes

Ski op­er­a­tors up­grade fa­cil­i­ties as they en­tice more vis­i­tors to ex­pe­ri­ence the thrill of snow

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS | FOCUS - By JING SHUIYU jing­shuiyu@chi­

Ski re­sort op­er­a­tors are plot­ting their course, just like those who take to the slopes, to im­prove ser­vice and fa­cil­i­ties, as they seek greater mar­ket share in a grow­ing in­dus­try.

Moun­tain China Re­sort, also known as Yab­uli, is no ex­cep­tion. It has set up a snow­board­ing park, a con­veyor belt, and ren­o­vated a high­speed ca­ble car this year.

CEO Han Gang said: “We are con­sid­er­ing set­ting up new trails, when we ob­tain per­mis­sion, to meet grow­ing de­mand. ”

Han said vis­i­tor num­bers are pro­jected to ex­ceed 144,000 in the 2016 win­ter sea­son, up 20 per­cent over the pre­vi­ous year.

The re­sort, lo­cated in Harbin, Hei­long jiang prov­ince, opened on Nov 3.

Also gain­ing mo­men­tum is Gent­ing Re­sort Se­cret Gar­den, a ski cen­ter in Zhang ji­akou, He­bei prov­ince. The cen­ter has in­stalled a new chair­lift and opened a train­ing park this year.

It added sev­eral au­to­matic snow­mak­ers and groom­ing ma­chines to im­prove snow qual­ity, according to the com­pany.

Gent­ing Re­sort, se­lected as venue for the 2022 Win­ter Olympics for freestyle ski­ing and snow­board­ing events, has also been work­ing on projects for pro­fes­sional use.

“Equip­ment and fa­cil­i­ties in Chi­nese ski cen­ters are being up­graded,” said keen snow­board­ing fan Liu Xihe, a PhD can­di­date at Ts­inghua Univer­sity. “Prices, how­ever, are rel­a­tively higher com­pared to over­seas.”

He started snow­board­ing four years ago, and won medals at sport events in Beijing.

“What mat­ters in the ski­ing ex­pe­ri­ence most is the crowd. If the ski ar­eas are crowded by begin­ners, it is not an ideal place for well-trained skiers.” Liu said.

Liu’s hope is very likely to be ful­filled in the next few years.

China’s ski in­dus­try is set to pros­per, as the gov­ern­ment in Novem­ber is­sued plans to pro­mote win­ter sports.

The coun­try aims to get 300 mil­lion peo­ple on the slopes by the time Beijing and nearby Zhang ji­akou host the 2022 Win­ter Olympics.

The plan pro­posed that there will be at least 800 ski ar­eas by that time, with hun­dreds of brand new ones.

There were 568 ski ar­eas and cen­ters in China in 2015, an in­crease of 108 over the pre­vi­ous year, according to a white pa­per is­sued by China Vanke Co Ltd’s Lake Songhua Re­sort.

Ex­perts said ski re­sorts are likely to rake in more prof­its than ever be­fore, while the key to win­ning the po­ten­tial mar­ket is to in­crease cus­tomer re­ten­tion — as im­por­tant as build­ing cus­tomer base.

“Many prov­inces, such as He­bei and those in the northeast of China, have the nat­u­ral re­sources to de­velop ski­ing,’’ said Li Yanli, a pro­fes­sor at Beijing Sport Univer­sity.

Li added that they need to im­prove op­er­a­tions and fa­cil­i­ties to hold onto skiers who will have more choice than ever be­fore.

In China, one-time skiers ac­counted for a con­sid­er­able por­tion of vis­its with 80 per­cent of skiers vis­it­ing just once a year, according to a re­search con­ducted by 36kr, a Chi­nese me­dia web­site.

The first ski ex­pe­ri­ence can of­ten be dis­ap­point­ing for most begin­ners, with ex­tremely low re­turn rates, wrote in­de­pen­dent con­sul­tant Lau­rent Vanat in the 2016 In­ter­na­tional Re­port on Snow & Moun­tain Tourism.

Vanat said op­er­a­tors should fo­cus on teach­ing and de­vel­op­ing skills to un­leash mar­ket po­ten­tial.

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