Supply-side reforms unleash momentum in China's ice-and-snow economy

(Xinhua) 08:24, January 16, 2024

Tourists have fun at Harbin Ice-Snow World in Harbin, northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, Jan. 3, 2024. (Xinhua/Wang Jianwei)

BEIJING, Jan. 15 (Xinhua) -- With snow-covered parks, scenic spots and ski resorts across China bustling with tourists, the nation has embraced an ever-thriving ice-and-snow economic boom. This prosperity is inseparable from the country's efforts to deepen supply-side structural reforms to expedite the upgrading of the ice-and-snow industry, which has turned frozen landscapes into treasure troves.

Ice-and-snow tourism is an integral part of the ice-and-snow industry. According to a report released by the China Tourism Academy, the number of people engaging in ice-and-snow leisure tourism across the country during the 2023-2024 winter season is expected to exceed 400 million for the first time, with the anticipated revenue reaching 550 billion yuan (about 77.37 billion U.S. dollars).

The hosting of the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022 provided a significant opportunity for China to promote the high-quality development of its ice-and-snow industry. In February 2021, when the preparations for the games were in full swing, an ice-and-snow tourism development action plan was released by the central authorities, aiming to increase the supply of relevant tourism products, better meet the demands of consumers and contribute to the establishment of a new development pattern.

The action plan also proposed to boost the construction of ice-and-snow-themed tourism resorts and scenic areas, promote the industry's integration with culture, education and technology, enhance public services and improve the construction of public infrastructure.

With the number of people participating in ice-and-snow sports in China exceeding 340 million, the number of ski resorts has risen to around 700, and rapid growth has been recorded in indoor skiing facilities operating year-round, according to industry reports.

Yabuli, a renowned ski resort in Harbin, capital of the northernmost Heilongjiang Province, has received over 410,000 tourists this snow season, while the southwestern Xizang Autonomous Region just celebrated the opening of its first ski resort situated at an impressive elevation of 4,500 meters.

The construction and planning of more facilities for this thrilling sport is underway, extending beyond traditional snowy regions. Hunan Province in central China, for example, aims to build 15 ski resorts by 2025.

The current ice-and-snow tourism market in China features mass participation and diverse development, said Xin Benlu, a professor in ice-and-snow tourism at Jilin University, who also noted that efforts on the supply side aim to deeply integrate the ice-and-snow economy with new consumer scenarios.

Various regions have introduced a dazzling array of ice-and-snow-featured tourism products, combining local culture, dining and entertainment. Chongqing Municipality in southwest China, for instance, has established an "ice-and-fire" travel route leveraging its ski resorts, hot springs and spicy local cuisine.

"We are dedicated to fostering a distinctive development of the ice-and-snow economy, aiming for visitors to experience the unique charm of Chongqing's winter," stated Qin Dingbo, an official with the Chongqing municipal commission of culture and tourism development.

Christoph Rainer Bank, a tourist from Germany, recently vacationed in northeast China's Jilin Province. Besides enjoying the world-class ski resorts there, he was also drawn to activities such as snowfield hot springs, ice-fishing, and the rich folk culture and cuisine. Compared to many ice-and-snow tourist destinations worldwide, he said, Jilin has more distinctive features.

Harbin, known as the "icy city," has become the hottest tourist city and darling of social media this winter, particularly due to the landmark Ice-Snow World with its splendid ice sculptures, fascinating illuminations and various amusement facilities. Since the International Ice and Snow Festival kicked off on Jan. 5, the park has experienced a consistent surge in visitors, averaging over 30,000 daily.

In addition, over 100 activities have been launched citywide to enhance the overall visitor experience, such as ice-harvesting, international ice-carving competitions and food festivals, according to Li Ren, deputy director of the Harbin municipal bureau of culture, radio, television and tourism.

This year, the industry has placed a greater emphasis on upgrading service quality, fueling its growing popularity. In the Ice and Snow Grand World in the city of Changchun, Jilin Province, 18 "heated lounges" with hot drinks, snacks and indoor games have been built, ensuring visitors can warm up within a three-minute walk of anywhere in the park.

Experts have noted that the rising trend of the ice-and-snow economy is expected to persist in China, opening up cooperation possibilities for additional industries to explore, including technological manufacturing, health care and elderly care.

The sustainable development of ice-and-snow tourism also requires nurturing business entities and industry ecosystems, said Dai Bin, president of the China Tourism Academy, adding that in the future, efforts should be directed toward fostering more innovative and culturally creative production, operation and service entities.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


Related Stories