Can a ‘Ski Culture’ Thrive in China?

on February 16 2011 | in Lifestyle Travel Trends | by | with 3 Comments

Sun Mountain, Yabuli, China, skiing, ski resort, ski race

“Build it and they will come.” That’s what upscale resort operator, Club Med, which sells vacation experiences around the world, hopes will happen. The company is plowing money into its luxury ski resort in China with expectations that China’s wealthy will think of it as Asia’s Aspen or St. Moritz, a vacation spot to ski and be seen skiing.

Opened late last year at Yabuli’s Sun Mountain in Heilongjiang Province, Club Med Yabuli hopes to be China’s first-class ski resort.

The company is spending $3 million to spruce up its facilities, according to a BBC report. The posh spread includes 283 rooms complete with presidential suite, restaurants and an apres-ski infrastructure of spa, yoga, and sauna.

One day at the resort easily costs over $200, which would just about eat up the average urban income of $270 a month, but ClubMed looks to attract China’s wealthy.

China had the world’s fastest-growing group of millionaires as of 2009. The average age of China’s wealthy is relatively young, at 36, according to an HSBC survey released last year.

Fast-growing population of wealthy spenders at a healthy, active age? Sounds like key ingredients for a robust market of resort-bound skiers. ClubMed is certainly upbeat.

Observers, however, think that China’s culture and ski culture are not quite there, at least for now.

There’s the time-off factor, for one. In China, the wealthy entrepreneur is work-focused and not about to go off for a week in the mountains. Interviewed by the BBC, wealthy respondents said they just didn’t have that kind of time. Even for those working for companies, time off is generally limited to national holidays.

Another question raised is whether luxury priced pleasures in one corner of the globe are equally desirable in all cultures. Namely, will Chinese skiers empty their pockets to sip a cocktail while soaking in a hot tub?

Still, ClubMed expects a robust market based on Chinese Ski Association’s forecast of an estimated growth spurt of Chinese skiers from 5 million in 2005 to 20 million by 2014.

In its first winter season, the hotel had 65 percent occupancy and general manager Christian Noret said he was confident of good numbers by the end of the ski season in April.

Club Med’s first Asian ski resort was built in Sahoro, Hokkaido in Japan.

Henri Giscard d’Estaing, Chairman and CEO of Club Med, expects China will be the second market of Club Med globally by 2015.

photo credit: ski china

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3 Responses to Can a ‘Ski Culture’ Thrive in China?

  1. During my trip in CNY, I saw in the airports many Chinese skiers going overseas to ski ( Europe, Japan, Turkey); the feeling I have ( only personal) is that the Skiers of China which might have the money to go to Club Med in Yabuli are more ready to spend that amount to go in the top overseas resort where the service is better and where it’s not -20degrees to ski.

    But I guess Club Med is counting on “the numbers”, there might just be so much Chinese people who want to discover ski that they can not all go overseas, some have to stay in China , right?

    Club Med will also open soon in Yunnan and south east China.

  2. Sammy says:

    Successful global hotel brands such as ClubMed normally have very clear vision and market strategies in all of their destinations. “Build it and they will come” is not a vision and “hope” is not a strategy.

    It is also difficult to fathom that ClubMed would compare the new Yabuli resort to Aspen or St. Moritz, both of which are well renowned and respected on an international level for their respective ski cultures and steeped in decades of tradition and legacy.

    If these are the comments of ClubMed, then I am certainly going to avoid their resort destinations in future. If on the other hand these comments are the speculation or supposition of R-L, then you should re-think the very casual editorial style and the potential negative impact.

    For your reference, consumption of alcohol whilst bathing in a hot tub is extremely dangerous as it may cause unconsciousness and lead to drowning.


    • Red Luxury says:

      @Sammy You are certainly right that Club Med is a great organization and a strong marketer. Yet there is never any assurance of success.

      There are multiple perspectives on any story and we are glad you are sharing yours.

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