Ski field construction may get overheated in China
Updated: 2016-02-19 17:56
Visitors enjoy a day at a ski resort in Chongli in Hebei province. Pan Zhiwang / For China Daily
CHANGCHUN -- Winter is cold but one can feel the heat of the winter sports development in China since Beijing was awarded the right to host the 2022 Olympic Winter Games.
Winter sports, especially skiing, have picked up pace in development following the International Olympic Committee's decision on July 31, 2015, to make the Chinese capital the first ever city to host both summer and Winter Games.
During the three-day New Year holiday at the beginning of 2016, Chongli, the snow events venue for the 2022 Games, received nearly 130,000 tourists, a 30 percent of increase compared with the same period last year.
The growth did not just happen in places directly linked to the Winter Olympics, some 200 ski fields across the country all feel the rising popularity of the winter sports.
In China's northeast province of Heilongjiang, Yabuli, one of the country's largest and earliest ski resorts, received more than 100,000 tourists, with a 161 percent of increase in tourist numbers from November 21 to December 31 last year.
The fast increase in tourist numbers fueled the enthusiasm in building ski fields but investors have to spend heavily for the start-up and wait a long time before they can make a profit.
"A domestically-made cable car system costs 30 million yuan (about 4.62 million U.S dollars), and a snowmaker costs at least 150,000 yuan," said Wang Yong, manager of Miaoxiangshan Skiing Park in Changchun, capital of northeast China's Jilin Province.
"Running a ski resort is expensive and time-consuming. You have to spend a lot of money before you can make any profit," he said.
Another ski resort owner from northwest Shaanxi Province told Xinhua they had invested over 150 million yuan to build the resort in 2014, but they will not be able to cover the costs until 2021 although they have received over 20,000 skiers in the past two winters.
Wang voiced cautious optimism about the industry's prospect.
"Workers' wages have increased 15 percent this year. Making money is getting harder and harder," Wang said.
To make things worse, more ski fields means more competition which leads to price war and further cuts the profit of the investors. The situation is especially true with small ski parks.
"When they can't afford better facilities to attract skiers, some small parks resort to price war, which is unsustainable," said Yu Menghong, general manager of Zhaojin Culture and Tourism Investment Company in Shaanxi province.
Yabuli once suffered from a rat race of nine resorts. Many of them would rather run at a loss to drum up customers.
"The moment I got off the train, men from several resorts competed to bring me to their places. It was really annoying," said Wang Xinrui, a ski fan from Beijing.
Another ski fan said he was puzzled by so many promotions by various resorts in Changchun, some of which offer a price as low as 40 yuan per hour or even 90 yuan for a whole day.
"It's exhausting to compare the prices," he said, "And it's hard to tell which one offers best service at a reasonable price."
To address the growing demand of Chinese skiers and the challenges resort owners meet with, good regulation of the market is the key, said industry sources.
Yabuli local government has put the nine resorts under integrated management in 2014. Ski fans can visit any of the nine fields with a single pass now.
Experts also suggested deep-pocketed investors follow the example of Wanda Changbaishan International Resort in Jilin province which combines hotels, amusement parks and shops with skiing resort so as to attract families.
Ma Chunye, general manager of the Wanda resort, doesn't think their model is suitable for smaller resorts.
"But if we together can develop the interest of Chinese families in skiing and make skiing an enjoyable way to spend the family holidays, skiing resorts in China will eventually become the real hot spot," he said.
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