Duolemeidi Mountain Resort, one of China’s most modern and advanced ski resorts, now provides visitors with overnight in an attempt to offset its financial losses in the ski business. The resort, in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, has not turned a profit for its Italian investors since it opened in 2006. A lack of real snow, bad weather and China’s lack of a ski culture make the country a difficult proposition, said Fabio Ries, co-founder and chairman of the board of Duolemeidi Mountain Resort.
Ries said that the development of a ski resort cannot be sustainable in China if the income relies solely on ski tickets. “With the opening of our first condo units this winter, we can have income from those who stay overnight and we can also earn money from those who want to hold conferences in our resort.”
Duolemeidi is not alone in this predicament. Only a handful of China’s 20 big ski resorts are in the black, the Chinese Ski Association says. The solution of beefingup the ski industry with added perks boils down to a philosophy that has been used repeatedly in the expanding country with great success: bigger plus better equals success.
The growth of China’s ski industry coincides with the expanding economy, and with more wealthy Chinese pursuing a healthy lifestyle and recreational holidays, the future of China’s ski resort market can be only one thing: sensational.
In Yabuli Sun Mountain Resort, reportedly the best ski resort in Northeast China’s Heilongjiang province, Club Med, the operator, broke even last winter, after three months of operating the resort. This is thanks in no small part to all of the additional amenities Club Med brought to the table.
“At the beginning, none of our board members thought it was a good idea to invite Club Med to run our place, because the price is very high. But I insisted (on inviting) Club Med here, because a resort is a place for leisure and fun. It is the experience that truly matters, not the price,” Cao Yue, executive vice-president of corporate development at Melco China Resorts said.
In Club Med’s Yabuli resort, skiing is no longer the only choice for visitors in winter. Cao said that about 48 percent of visitors go for the skiing and others are there to enjoy a snow holiday. Guests who are not into skiing can still relax with yoga, mahjong, and an outdoor Canadian bath and spa.
“We’ve already had repeaters come back to us this winter. It is for sure an emerging trend in the China travel market,” said Olivier Horps, managing director of Club Med Asia-Pacific.
All kinds of statistics show that China’s ski industry is about to take off. China is the largest market for cars and will soon be the largest market for luxury goods. Why can’t it become the largest market for skiing?