BEIJING - Chinese
ski resorts are converting their resources into a
niche market, drawing millions of visitors during
the winter months.
The "ice and snow
economy" is gaining momentum in the northern
provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning and
Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
Heilongjiang has been the first province
in the country to see the potential of developing
its resources as a major winter tourist
attraction. Its winter lasts for about four
months, with heavy
snowfalls throughout the
period. It has more than 70 ski resorts and 150
ski slopes, accounting for more than 60% of the
country's winter resort facilities.
Heilongjiang Tourism Department statistics
show that the province received more than 3.2
million visitors during last year's spring
festival, gaining income of more than 2 billion
yuan (US$256 million). Tourism is now one of the
key drivers of the Heilongjiang's economic growth.
Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang, is
famous for its annual ice-and-snow extravaganzas.
The city's ice-lantern shows and ice and snow
sculpture competitions are becoming world-famous,
attracting local and foreign visitors every year.
"We received more visitors from the United
States, Russia, Germany, and the special
administrative region of Hong Kong last year,"
said Bo Xiru, director of the tourism bureau. "The
province is playing a leading role in winter
tourism in the country."
The sector has
spurred the economic growth of other related
industries in the province. Harbin's hotel
occupancy rate was up more than 80% last year, the
Heilongjiang Daily reported.
cooperation with the Canadian city of Montreal,
last year's snow-sculpture exhibition in Harbin
added a new dimension. Two sculptures, Crossing
the Bering Strait and Niagara Falls,
both reported to be 250 meters long and 28 meters
high and involving more than 13,000 cubic meters
of snow, will be entered in the Guinness World
Jilin province is also attracting
tourists with its various winter sports. And this
season, Changchun, its capital, introduced an
international ski competition, Vasaloppet China,
Liaoning province, with its
geographic advantages, is promoting itself as the
first stop in northeastern China for enthusiasts
of ice and snow sports. The province spent
millions of yuan in 2005 to build the Northeast
Asia Ski Resort in the Shenyang National Forest
Xinjiang recently kicked off its
Silk Road Ice and Snow Festival, in a bid to grab
a piece of the winter-sports pie. The industry is
also providing other related work for its people.
Once heavily reliant on stock breeding, some have
now moved into the catering business. There are
now almost 30 ski resorts surrounding Urumqi, the
capital, which can accommodate about 20,000 people
Winter tourism earned Xinjiang 4.6
billion yuan in 2005.