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Fitness boom generating healthy profits

By SUN XIAOCHEN | China Daily | Updated: 2020-01-23 09:29

Rising participation boosting nation's balance sheet at increasing levels

With increasing numbers of Chinese embracing sports as a lifestyle choice, the sector's spending boom shows no signs of slowing down.

From sweat-soaked runners in marathons to excited fans roaring on their teams in the country's professional soccer and basketball leagues, public sports participation in China is on the rise in numerous ways, underlined by the latest industry figures.

The General Administration of Sport of China (GASC) and the National Bureau of Statistics jointly announced on Monday that sports-related businesses generated around 1 trillion yuan (about $146.1 billion) in revenue in 2018-up 29.2 percent from 2017-contributing to total industry figures of over 2.65 trillion yuan. The total output was 20.9 percent higher than in 2017.

Revenue in the sports sector accounted for about 1.1 percent of total GDP in 2018 (90.03 trillion yuan), up from 0.95 percent in 2017.

The report, which has been released annually since 2013, is the country's most recent assessment of the size and growth of its sports industry, with the data covering 11 categories of business, including the manufacture of sporting goods, fitness and leisure, sports entertainment, sports venue operation and construction.

The 2018 increases in revenue and total industry scale were 9.3 and 5.2 percentage points higher than the rises recorded in 2017.

The sector's booming performance, which is outpacing overall GDP growth, can be attributed to rising public awareness of healthy living, said officials.

"With more and more people in China embracing an active way of life, as we can see from the bustling scenes at gyms, sports venues and mass sporting events, the market still has a huge growth potential to be realized," said Liu Fumin, director of the GASC's sports economy department.

Liu's assertion is supported by the skyrocketing number of marathon races held in the country as well as the growing number of winter sports participants in the build-up to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

According to the Chinese Athletics Association, about 7.2 million people took part in some 1,900 road-running races, including half and full marathons, last year, up from just 22 similar events in 2011.

With winter sports heating up ahead of the 2022 Games, ski resorts around the country recorded 21.13 million visits during the 2017-18 season, an increase of 14.4 percent from the previous winter, according to the China Ski Industry White Paper published last January by analyst Carving Ski.

Industry experts have stressed that the impressive numbers should be put in perspective.

"The manufacturing-centered consumption pattern of sports in our country reflects an immature industry structure, where the potential of the sports service sector is not yet developed," said Huang Haiyan, a professor of sports industry development at Shanghai University of Sport.

Compared with the United States, sports still play a less important role for Chinese people for entertainment and social purposes, leaving untapped potential in the service sector, Huang added.

According to the report released on Monday, manufacturing, sales and rental of sporting goods contributed a 56.8 percent share of industry revenue in 2018, as opposed to revenues generated by consumption of non-equipment products and services, such as fitness training, event ticketing, broadcasting and merchandising.

"The structure of our country's sports industry needs to be and will be further diversified as sports consumption nowadays involves more than just buying sneakers and clothing," said Jiang Chongmin, a senior researcher at the China Institute of Sport Science.

"With more people doing exercise, taking part in grassroots competitions and visiting stadiums to watch live events on a regular basis, the service sector will have greater growth."

To help achieve the goal set in 2014 by the central government to develop the country's sports industry scale to 5 trillion by 2025, the State Council, China's Cabinet, issued a 35-measure plan in September aimed at turning the sports sector into a new pillar for economic growth.

According to the plan, the GASC will work with ministry-level departments to promote wider sports participation on campuses, cut taxes for sports-related businesses, build more accessible facilities and professionalize domestic sports leagues.

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