Olympics boost winter sports tourism during Spring Festival

By CHENG SI in Beijing and XING YI in Shanghai | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-02-08 08:50

People enjoy a sunny winter’s day of skating and sledding on the ice at central Beijing’s Shichahai Lake on Feb 1. CHEN XIAOGEN/FOR CHINA DAILY

The ongoing 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games generated stronger-than-expected enthusiasm for winter tourism and winter sports in China during the just completed Spring Festival holiday.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism revealed on Sunday night that the seven-day holiday, which ended on Sunday, had seen Chinese residents make 251 million tourism trips. The tourism-related revenue generated over the holiday reached about 289.2 billion yuan ($45.4 billion).

The ministry said that the Winter Games, which started during the holiday, had ignited a nationwide frenzy for ice and snow sports.

Fliggy, an online travel portal, said that orders for winter tourism packages on its platform rose by 30 percent over the break compared with the same period last year. Figures from Qunar, another online travel agency, showed twice as many bookings compared with the same period in 2019, before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Outdoor ice rinks in Beijing were the most popular destinations according to the travel agencies, with some ice rinks highlighting traditional Chinese culture and architecture-such as those on Shichahai Lake and at the Summer Palace-embracing a boom over the holiday.

“I’ve heard that the seasonal Shichahai ice rink will shut down on Friday,” said Chen Yiling, a 28-year-old Beijing resident.” The ice rink is rather popular, and it’s hard to book the tickets. I’m very lucky that I booked three tickets for my parents and myself two days before the holiday.

“Gliding across the ice on special trolleys and bicycles is much easier for us skating rookies. It’s our way to enjoy winter sports, and it’s quite meaningful as the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics are in full swing in the city.”

Winter sports enthusiasm was not confined to residents of northern China, with people in southern provinces and cities-where snow is a rarity-also becoming more interested in such diversions over the Spring Festival holiday.

Figures from Qunar show that five of the 10 most popular ski resorts over the holiday were in southern parts of the country, including the Lin’an Damingshan ski resort in Zhejiang province.

According to the Shanghai Municipal Sports Bureau, the city now has 14 indoor ice rinks and eight seasonal outdoor ice rinks. Around 2.8 million residents participated in winter sports last year, up from just 600,000 in 2017.

Rink on the Bund, the first open-air ice rink at a Shanghai shopping center, opened at the BFC mall this year. Marketing manager Wang Yiliao said the 200-square-meter rink combined Spring Festival and Winter Olympic themes to attract more people to the mall.

“In European countries, where winter sports are more common, skating is part of their holiday season activity,” Wang said. “This will not just be a one-time thing for the Olympics, as we plan to do it every year to create a holiday atmosphere for customers.”

In Taicang, Jiangsu province, an hour’s drive from Shanghai, another ski resort is being built to cater to the growing enthusiasm for skiing in the Yangtze River Delta, according to its developer, Fosun Tourism Group.

Andrew Xu, executive president of the group, said he sees a lot of potential for winter sports to drive growth of the leisure industry in China.

“There is a strong circle of skiing enthusiasts in Shanghai who would like to share their skiing experiences in different places,” he said. “The Beijing Winter Olympics are only the start.”

Liu Yunan, a researcher with the Kchange Tourism Group, a Shanghai-based tourism consultancy, said travelers from southern provinces and cities bought more winter tourism packages and tickets for winter sports events than during previous Spring Festival holidays.

“Domestic winter tourism has a promising future and will embrace a surge not only because of the ongoing 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, but also travelers’ preference for tour products that focus on interaction and direct experiences,” he added.

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