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CHINESE FLOCK TO SWISS ALPS - Jane Peel, Chief Reporter
Saturday August 6, 2016 - Email this article to a friend

The Chinese are heading to Switzerland in record numbers. The Swiss want to capitalise on their interest in the mountains but can they be tempted onto the snow?

Chinese tourists make up the fourth largest group of foreign visitors to Switzerland, after the Germans, Americans and British. 

Their numbers have been rising in recent years and, in 2015, shot up by 33% to 1.5 million.

Increasingly, they are travelling to Switzerland independently for winter holidays, rather than as part of a traditional package tour of Europe. 

And, increasingly, it seems they want to ski or snowboard.

Lets hope so.

Chinese ski lesson in GrindelwaldSki lesson in Grindelwald















It's good news for Switzerland where the number of foreign skiers has been in decline in recent years as a result of high prices and unfavourable exchange rates.  

Recent changes to employment laws saw the majority of British chalet operators pull out as we reported in this earlier story on PlanetSKI.

An added bonus is that Chinese nationals are spending more per day in resorts than the average European.

Snowsports in China have been developing at a dramatic pace since 2000, but the decision to award the 2022 Winter Olympics to Beijing led to a new burst of enthusiasm.  

Latest figures suggest there are 12.5 million skiers and snowboarders in China and there could be as many as 40 million by the Olympics.

Snowboarding BASI Course in ChongliSnowboarding in China















You can read more on this in our feature Skiing On The Rise in China

Resorts in Europe have been keen to exploit the potential, since China seems to be one of the only nations in the world where participation in snowsports is increasing.

The Swiss saw that potential early on but have had to adapt to appeal to the Chinese market. 

They continue to change to meet the demand.

Chinese client learning to ski in GrindelwaldHaving fun















Unlike Europeans, the Chinese often don't want to spend a whole week on skis. 

They're keen to sample a range of activities, both on and off the snow. 

So Swiss tourism officials are now working on introducing a new all-inclusive "one-day ski experience" geared towards the Chinese market.

The package will include ski gear, lift pass and an instructor. 

It will be up and running this winter.   

Last season in Engelberg in central Switzerland PlanetSKI saw many nationalities from across Asia in the resort - most though simply took the Titlis lift to the top of the resort for the views and the experience and then they posed for photos in the snow. 

None wore ski gear or had skis/snowboards with them.

Engelberg, SwitzerlandEngelberg, Switzerland
















Enbelberg, SwitzerlandEngelberg, Switzerland

















Engelberg, SwitzerlandEngelberg, Switzerland
















No ski gear in sightNo ski gear in sight
















The Swiss authorites want to change this and get more of the Chinese onto the snow - skiing and snowboarding.

Since 2013 a group of ski instructors from China has come to Switzerland for the winter to teach in eight resorts, but we understand they have not exactly been rushed off their feet.

Chinese ski instructor and pupil in GrindelwaldChinese instructor and pupil




















In order to meet the growing demand from Chinese skiers, the Swiss have also recruited what they call "ski fans" to help out.

As well as 10 fully trained instructors, they now have 20 Chinese ski enthusiasts who act as interpreters, supporting the ski schools that are unable to provide a Chinese-speaking instructor.

A lot of time, effort and money is going on promoting these Chinese-friendly services.

In October Switzerland Tourism will be a major exhibitor at the first World Winter Sports Expo in Beijing. 

Its stand - the size of a singles tennis court - will be "chalet-style alpine chic" and will even have an ice-rink.

Flyer for WWSE Beijing 2016Beijing Expo









The emphasis is on promoting Switzerland as "The Original" - the country where winter alpine tourism began and where the snowy landscapes are spectacular.

Switzerland snowscape 2016Switzerland - The Original













Arosa, Switzerland 2016Winter Wonderland













A spokeswoman for Switzerland Tourism told PlanetSKI that China was strategically very important for the country.

By the time the Beijing Winter Olympics come around, it's anticipated that Chinese guests will make up 2 million of the annual hotel overnights in Switzerland.

The Chinese snowsport industry is also getting a boost from what's happening in Switzerland.

Three of the Chinese instructors who spent the 2013-14 season in Switzerland have returned to China to set up a ski school, in co-operation with Swiss Snowsports.

Warren Smith Ski Academy course in ChinaWarren Smith and pupils in China
















And, next winter in Verbier, PlanetSKI partner the Warren Smith Ski Academy  -  which has already run several courses in China -  will put at least 16 Chinese nationals through a nine-week course to become ski instructors. 

Verbier at night February 2016Verbier













If they pass, they will leave Verbier and go home with a higher standard of instructing qualification than most of their compatriots.

And they just might inspire their new pupils to join the growing numbers heading to the Alps to ski in Switzerland.

It's an East-West partnership that is likely to be of huge benefit to both countries.

Photos of Chinese skiers in Switzerland c/o Switzerland Tourism/Andre Meier

PlanetSKI will be reporting on Warren Smith's China story later in the year.  In the meantime, you can watch this video from one of his courses in Wanlong.


See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.

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