Monday 14th January was the inauguration of the opening ceremony of 2019 China-Finland Year of Winter Sports. For this special event, the Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and the First Lady, Jenni Haukio, traveled to Beijing, China. They received a warm welcome from President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan. The ceremony took place at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, a state building known to be used for legislative and ceremonial events by the Chinese government. A total of 350 guests from Finland were invited to attend the inauguration. Finnish businesses, government representatives and even foreign media were present. This 2019 China-Finland Year of Winter Sports meeting is focusing on four major points: training and coaching of winter sports, sustainable development and equality, travel and tourism, competitive and performance sports.

The beginning of a long relationship

The two countries exchanged on a winter sports cooperation between China and Finland. This cooperation was first introduced in spring 2017 when both President met in Finland. It is the first time in history that China has accepted this kind of winter sports partnership. However, it is not the first time the two country jointly participates in sports events.

In September 2018, Beijing held the World Winter Sports Expo with Finland as the country of honor. The exhibition was focusing on Winter indoor and outdoor sports, tourism, culture, health but also technology with virtual reality systems and intelligent sports equipment. Numerous cooperation documents were signed during the first part of the meeting. These agreements included the cooperation with stakeholders in different cities and areas of China, the collaboration from both Finland and China with government representatives, cities, sports organizations, sports institutes, and firms. It was decided that more than 60 events with the participation of both countries will take place this year. Indeed, in February, Helsinki will celebrate the Chinese New Year with some skilled performance groups from Beijing, fireworks and a traditional Chinese New Year market to represent the strong relationship between China and Finland. In April, Finland will host the Women’s World Ice Hockey Championships in addition to the World Synchronized Skating Championships to celebrate the “Women’s Month” to represent one of the themes of the 2019 China-Finland Year of Winter Sports, equality. In November, three important events will be organized: Helsinki Education Week, the SMASH sports technology event and GoExpo Winter.

High hopes for the tourism market

After the signing ceremony, Xi Jinping and Sauli Niinisto participated in the China-Finland Year of Winter Sports launch. As President Xi said, joining efforts will generate mutual benefits for both countries. This cooperation is an opportunity for long-term relationships between both countries but also to promote business opportunities and tourism. An increase in people-to-people exchanges between countries is expected. Indeed, the 2019 China-Finland Year of Winter Sports should attract tourists to both China and Finland.

A 2018 study showed that tourism related to winter sports activities will generate a revenue of 40 billion yuan (4.5 million dollars) by 2020 thanks to spending in accommodation, winter sports equipment, venues, and sightseeing. Furthermore, this inauguration is just a pre-event before the famous 2022 Winter Olympic Games that China will host in the Hebei province after winning the hosting rights in 2015. The China-Finland Year of Winter Sports inauguration is a way to attract media and start advertising the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. In this case, China’s tourism industry should be greatly impacted by tourists from Finland, Europe but also the rest of the world. Indeed, China’s goal is to reach 300 million winter sport new enthusiasts for the winter sports. This represents an important opportunity for China to develop its tourism sector but also to receive help from Finland and improve its expertise in building winter sports infrastructures. Indeed, Finland is a traditional winter sports country.

The Minister for European Affairs, Culture and Sport, Sampo Terho, who also was present during the inauguration, announced that Finland has and will offer a lot to China. It will help the country develop its winter sports industry by offering help in areas such as coaching, winter sports technology, manufacturing sports equipment, teaching physical education in schools and building venues for winter sports. This cooperation is much more than just tourism and infrastructure even if they are the main elements. It also focuses on winter sports-related industries such as winter sport scientific research, sports medicine and the organization of other winter sports events. Finnish winter sports knowledge will help China attain its goals. The closing of the 2019 China-Finland Year of Winter Sports will be held in the North of Finland, in Rovaniemi in December.

Thanks to the cooperation and support of Finland, China will be ready to welcome the 2022 Winter Olympic Games held in the capital of China. Beijing will be the only city that welcomed both Summer and Winter Olympic Games. The 2008 Olympic Games attracted 6.52 million tourists to the city with 382 000 of them from abroad. Star-level hotels were fully packed and scenic sites accounted for a revenue of 162 million yuan (23 million dollars) between the 8th of August to the 24th. Thus, the high expectations of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

The 2019 China-Finland Year of Winter Sports is supposed to facilitate the preparation of the Winter Olympic Games in order to be ready 3 years from now.

Don’t miss this opportunity: the booming ski industry in China

With the 2019 China-Finland Year of Winter Sports, the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympic Games and the 300 million winter sport new enthusiasts for goal, the skiing industry in China has great potential. The number of Chinese skiers and snowboarders is increasing greatly since a few years due to a higher disposable income from the middle class and a change in destination trends. At the end of 2016, 11.3 million Chinese said to ski at least once a year.  It is predicted that in 2030, China will have more than a 1000 ski resorts. Chinese and foreign firms already started to take advantage of this opportunity by opening luxury resorts in the North of China and ski products shops in first-tier cities.

However, the ski culture is relatively young in the country. The 200 ski areas of China are mainly proposing services for beginners which forces advanced levels to ski abroad in places such as Japan. While foreign ski resorts offer experience and a service of quality, Chinese ski resorts are still in their early development stage. The development of the ski industry in China is aiming at providing not only winter sports but it is mainly focusing on developing consumer experience by creating winter sports-themed entertainment. The goal is to develop a connection between the public and the ski industry. Only once this connection is made that they can become long-term winter sports participants thus, consumers.

How to grab these opportunities?

Develop a multi-channel marketing strategy

Having a multi-channel marketing strategy has the advantage of offering exposure. Chinese consumers are known to use their mobile device more often than their computers. Being on different channels will make sure Chinese consumers can find you. Trip.com, formerly known as Ctrip, and Qunar are the two major online travel agencies.

Have a relevant Chinese social marketing

Social networks are more personal and encourage consumers to share their experiences. Word-of-mouth is the favored type of information by Chinese consumers as they perceive trust in their counterparts’ opinions. It is important to encourage Chinese consumers to share their costumer experience online.

Actively responding to comments will show consumers that your brand puts them at the center of attention. The brand image is reflecting a customer service of high-quality. This will create long-term relationships with potential customers, the key to success.

Invest in Chinese KOLs

Key Opinions Leaders is a very important market in China. Their influence over Chinese consumers deeply impact purchase decisions. Most of them have millions of followers on their Chinese social media platforms. They are very invested into their work, share your messages and create articles about your company.

Be present on Chinese social media

Most of the Chinese tourists book flights or hotels from their mobile phones. Websites and platforms need to be adapted to a smaller device.

Advertising on Wechat and Weibo is very effective. Indeed, Chinese tourists are most likely to be young consumers spending a lot of time on social media. They research information mainly on these two platforms before making a purchase decision.

Create a rich content to transform leads into consumers.

Invest in Chinese search engines

Baidu is by far the leader in the Chinese search engine market. Optimizing your website through Baidu’s SEO strategy to increase the reach of the brand can be very rewarding.

The site offers numerous advertising options for businesses. However, the process can be quite long and complicated for foreign companies as the amount of administrative paperwork.

GENTLEMEN MARKETING AGENCY

Gentlemen Marketing Agency is a digital marketing agency based in Shanghai. We are specialized in the elaboration of marketing strategies for companies looking to establish or reinforce their presence in China. If you are looking for marketing advice related to the ski industry or tourism sector in China, please contact us.

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