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Austrian skiing destination proves popular with Chinese visitors

By WANG MINGJIE in London | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-03-03 07:42
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Christoph Eisinger. CHINA DAILY

Christoph Eisinger, managing director of Austria's largest skiing area, was quick to spot the potential of the Chinese market.

His long-term vision and his engagement with partners in China resulted in Ski Amade becoming one of the most popular Austrian ski resorts with Chinese visitors.

"We recognized the trend for skiing in China, or rather the potential for skiers and other winter sports enthusiasts from the country, at a very early stage and at the right time," Eisinger said.

"Chinese travelers definitely have the desire to visit Austria and the Alpine region. As an association of ski resorts, we are aware of the initial and ongoing investments that are necessary, but in the long run, all this is designed to pay off."

Ski Amade is a network of 28 areas and towns that form the second-largest ski area in Europe. It is named after the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was born in the Austrian city of Salzburg.

Statistics from the Austrian National Tourist Office show that Salzburg state was the country's second most popular among Chinese visitors in the 2018-19 winter season. Ski Amade, which is located in the state, was the third most popular ski resort in Austria for such travelers.

Eisinger said the main investment in the Chinese market has been the strategic partnership formed with the Thaiwoo Ski Resort in Chongli, Hebei province. The destination, a four-hour drive north of Beijing, will stage most of the skiing events for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

"This collaboration, which began almost three years ago, has been very friendly and beneficial for both parties," he said.

"The alliance not only allows both parties to learn from each other-be it in terms of operating ski lifts and ski schools, or getting to know the market-it has also been hugely beneficial for visiting skiers and snowboarders," Eisinger said.

The alliance allows those holding season tickets for a particular ski resort a free seven-day pass and a discount of 25 percent for any additional passes bought at a partner resort.

"We have built a reputation in the industry. Therefore, we are definitely remaining in the Chinese market to convert existing interest and desire into trips to Ski Amade," Eisinger said.

He added, "One special advantage of Ski Amade is its proximity to Salzburg, Mozart's hometown, and many other cultural heritage sites, making the destination a perfect combination of culture and nature."

According to the Salzburg state tourism board, the SalzburgerLand resort saw consistent winter growth in the number of Chinese visitors in the five years before the pandemic emerged.

The resort received more than 102,000 Chinese visitors in the 2018-19 winter, compared with just 24,701 in 2013-14.

A representative for the SalzburgerLand tourism board said, "Although Chinese guests still prefer to travel in summer, there is definitely interest in winter destinations and in trying different winter sports and activities.

"Chinese travelers spend a lot on shopping, day trips and other expenses, so the added value is very high. This is good for the economy, our partners and hosts."

Eisinger said that while the pandemic has brought huge disruption to international travel, he is confident the market will pick up quickly with vaccines being rolled out, and that ski resorts will benefit from an influx of Chinese visitors.

"We also expect interest in winter sports and ice and snow destinations to grow after the Beijing Winter Olympics," he added.

"In addition to major efforts being made by the Chinese government, along with ongoing investment and improvements to Chinese ski resorts, we believe that options for overseas skiing trips will continue to fuel this trend in the long term," he added.

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