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China winter sports tourism and domestic skier numbers surge

Skiing enthusiasts ski down a slope at a ski resort on January 17, 2015 in Zhangjiakou, Hebei Province, China. 2015 is Beijing's 2022 Winter Olympics bid to kick off the new year. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

A report on Chinese winter sport consumption habits by the China Tourism Academy and online Chinese tour operator Ctrip has said the number of winter sports tourists during the 2018-19 season hit 224 million.

This is the first time numbers have exceeded 200 million, and augurs well for China’s ambitions for its winter sports industry. The 2022 Winter Olympics host country said in its bid book that it will get 300 million people – one in every five Chinese – participating in winter sports, a promise also written into the latest version of the national sports development plan. The Chinese government has been pushing for the development of winter sports, using incentives including tax exemptions to boost infrastructure building and capacity at winter sports facilities.

The China Ice and Snow Tourism Development Report 2020 estimates that income from ice and snow tourism hit ¥386bn ($55.8bn/€50bn) in 2018-19. The report’s figures are based on Ctrip’s pool of data on sales of ice and snow holidays.

The China Tourism Academy expects tourist numbers to rise to 340 million in the 2021-22 winter season, and forecasts that winter tourism revenues will hit ¥680bn the same year. Winter sports are currently responsible for 1.5 million Chinese jobs.

The report revealed that the most popular ice and snow tourism destinations in China are Harbin, Hailin, Changchun, Shenyang, Mudanjiang, Baishan, Dalian, Shangzhi, Mohe, and Yanji. Emerging tourist destinations in 2020 include Lhasa, Urumqi, Zhangjiakou, Shijiazhuang, Shennongjia, Xining, Linzhi, Yinchuan, Hulunbuir and Chengde.

Between 2018 and 2019, Chinese skiers increased in number by 21.5 per cent, reaching 23.45 million, according to market research company International Data Group. By the end of 2018, the number of ski resorts in the country was at 742 and the number of ice rinks at 596.