China’s skiing craze could create a ‘massive business opportunity’ for Kiwis

Fueled by the Beijing Winter Olympics, the popularity of snow sports is booming in China – and creating a “massive business opportunity” for New Zealand, experts say.

Jerry Clode, a leading expert on Chinese consumer culture, said Kiwis needed to capitalize on the Chinese government’s drive to create a strong sporting nation and start positioning itself as the go-to “skiing place”.

“The promotion of sports in China has not focused on medal money. Instead, it was seen as a context to help Chinese individuals and families become more active,” said Clode, who has helped multinationals such as Disney and Starbucks locate themselves in the Chinese market.

The popularity of once niche activities like skating, skiing and ice hockey has exploded in China since Beijing won its bid in 2015 to host this year’s Winter Olympics.

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The Chinese authorities had pledged to involve a quarter of the Chinese population in ice and snow sports.

A record 20.76 million Chinese people frequented mountain slopes and indoor skiing venues during the 2020/21 winter season, according to a white paper on the country’s ski industry.

On Tmall, China’s largest e-commerce platform, sales of winter sports equipment rose 300% during the last Chinese lunar year holiday, including a 180% jump for the only ski equipment.

Millennial parents and couples had a growing desire to explore the world and try more adventurous activities, Clode said.

“They are becoming more active and independent, traveling by car and seeking deeper social experiences with nature and local communities.

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Zoi Sadowski-Synnott said she had long dreamed of winning Olympic gold.

“What is exciting for New Zealand is that we are able to tick those boxes in terms of being able to provide a natural environment to play these sports. We have the facilities. The sports culture here is very friendly,” he said.

The chairman of the New Zealand Chinese Travel and Tourism Association, Simon Cheung, said that despite a drop in the number of Chinese tourists to New Zealand at the end of 2019, the number of free and independent travelers from China has steadily increased. increased before the Covid pandemic and border closures.

“In 2019, we received around 1,000 Chinese travelers coming to New Zealand for sporting holidays, such as golfing, diving and of course skiing.

“For example, once they arrived, they went straight to the mountain slopes in Queenstown, spent seven days there, and then returned home,” Cheung said.

Those who took sports vacations were generally not first-time foreign travelers – these individuals opted for the comfort and convenience of organized group travel.

Heaven Zhang, a ski instructor at Remarkables <a class=Ski Area in Queenstown, says Chinese people are increasingly interested in learning to ski and snowboard in New Zealand.” style=”width:100%;display:inline-block”/>

Provided / Stuff

Heaven Zhang, a ski instructor at Remarkables Ski Area in Queenstown, says Chinese people are increasingly interested in learning to ski and snowboard in New Zealand.

Instead, sports tourists traveled “with a clear and detailed plan”, and wanted to discover unique and exciting experiences.

“New Zealand is the perfect place for adventurers, nature lovers and sports enthusiasts,” Cheung said.

“Once the New Zealand borders reopen to international tourists, for Chinese travelers I would expect more free and independent visitors rather than large tour groups.”

The stars of the Beijing Olympics

Aileen Gu – who won gold medals in the big air and halfpipe events, and a silver medal in slopestyle at the Beijing Winter Olympics – has become a “role model” for young Chinese.

During the games, Gu passionately shared his close connection to New Zealand.

She has trained at Cardrona near Wānaka during Northern Hemisphere summers since she was 10, and has trained more recently with Kiwi super-trainer Brad Prosser.

“In addition to being a champion athlete at 18, Gu is also bilingual, a role model and an elite student. For Chinese millennials, she is the epitome of the ‘global citizen’ they want to be” , Clode said.

“She would inspire more young Chinese girls to take up the sport.”

Games also influenced how Kiwis spent their money.

Jerry Clode helps New Zealand brands and organizations build more authentic connections with Chinese consumers.

Provided

Jerry Clode helps New Zealand brands and organizations build more authentic connections with Chinese consumers.

The toys inspired by Bing Dwen Dwen, the official mascot of the Beijing Winter Olympics, sold out within a day when the games kicked off on February 4.

Daisy Wong, a Christchurch-based online retailer, said it received around 300 orders for Bing Dwen Dwen plush panda mascots during the games. Each 20 centimeter doll costs around $165.

Digital marketing is the key

Although travel restrictions remain, Clode suggested that the New Zealand tourism sector continue to communicate online with Chinese consumers.

The ski season runs from mid-June to mid-October in New Zealand, but the border does not reopen to Chinese tourists until September.

“We can present travel experiences to Chinese consumers through virtual participation,” he said.

“For example, the growth of the metaverse [a virtual reality world] is evident in China. We could let them do a family ski run through the metaverse, giving them a taste of the kind of winter sports experience they could have in New Zealand.

A Christchurch-based cake company is making cakes in the shape of the Bing Dwen Dwen mascot to celebrate the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Provided / Stuff

A Christchurch-based cake company is making cakes in the shape of the Bing Dwen Dwen mascot to celebrate the Beijing Winter Olympics.

New Zealand’s location would give it an advantage when travelers might return, Clode said.

“When the ski slopes are closed in the northern hemisphere, especially in China, the slopes are open in New Zealand.

“New Zealand now needs to position itself as a ski destination for Chinese people, because that’s not really part of how we communicate tourism to the Chinese market at the moment,” he said.

Heaven Zhang, a ski instructor at Remarkables Ski Area in Queenstown who left China for New Zealand five years ago, said around 70-80% of Chinese people living in Queenstown and Auckland had skied in New Zealand, and 20% had skied frequently.

“Skiing needs more time to learn, so it’s a bit difficult for most Chinese tourists with a tight travel schedule,” Zhang said.

“But the business opportunities are there. enthusiasm [for skiing] grows.”

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