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Winter tourism booming in nation, but expansion hindered by problems

By CHENG SI | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-01-07 07:07
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Tourists enjoy a firework display at the opening ceremony of the 36th Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival on Sunday. [Photo by Liu Yang/for]

China is embracing a boom in winter tourism thanks to supportive government policies and increasing investment in infrastructure construction, according to a recent report by the China Tourism Academy.

The report said that during the winter season from late 2018 to early 2019, about 224 million domestic visits were made to destinations featuring snow scenery and winter sports-a 13.7-percent increase compared with the previous year.

Revenue of about 386 billion yuan ($55 billion) was generated during the last winter season, up 17.1 percent.

Data from Lvmama, an online travel agency based in Shanghai, show that people who booked tour packages related to winter tourism registered a year-on-year rise of 47.9 percent in December, with cities such as Beijing, Harbin in Heilongjiang province and Urumqi in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region among the top destinations.

Qunar, another online travel service provider in Beijing, said that their users are more willing to travel to Songyuan and Changbai Mountain in Jilin province because of richer winter tourism resources there like hot springs and skiing resorts.

"Winter tourism has become more popular with people's ever-growing enthusiasm for the approaching Olympic Winter Games in Beijing in 2022," said Dai Bin, president of China Tourism Academy.

"In 2018, there were 742 ski resorts, with more than 21 million people participating in skiing events," he said. "Booming winter tourism has led governments and companies to develop more winter tourism facilities."

During 2018 and 2019, investments totaling 610 billion yuan were channeled to the winter tourism sector for projects such as highway construction, airport renovations and resort development, according to the report.

Northern and central cities like Harbin, Beijing and Datong in Shanxi province are favored by investors for their climates and people's higher recognition of winter entertainment in those areas, the report said.

However, there are still problems hampering the further expansion of the nation's winter tourism, according to Dai.

"Though we are embracing an ever prosperous winter tourism era, we have to admit that the winter tourism market is still in its infancy with problems yet to be fully solved-for example, giving less attention to management while continuously channeling financial resources to venue construction," he said.

Dai said that in 2019 he went twice to Lillehammer, Norway, where two Winter Olympic Games had been hosted. He said winter tourism and winter sports in the area have become essential to people's lives.

"It's time for us to enhance the nation's market for winter tourism and people's recognition, helping the sector reach a sustainable prosperity," he said.

In March 2019, the central government released a guideline on developing winter sports, saying that the government will promote the development of winter tourism, and help industries related to the sector and winter sports to merge with other sectors.

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