Development and Management of Ice and Snow Tourism in China

High-quality Development Paths of Ice-snow Tourism in China from the Perspective of the Winter Olympics

  • TANG Chengcai , 1, 2 ,
  • ZENG Rui 1, 2 ,
  • YANG Yuanyuan 1, 2 ,
  • XU Shiyi , 1, 2, * ,
  • WANG Xin 1, 2
  • 1. School of Tourism Sciences, Beijing International Studies University, Beijing 100024, China
  • 2. Research Center of Beijing Tourism Development, Beijing 100024, China
*XU Shiyi, E-mail:

TANG Chengcai, E-mail:

Received date: 2021-10-25

  Accepted date: 2022-01-20

  Online published: 2022-06-07

Supported by

The National Natural Science Foundation of China(42071199)

The Major Project of National Social Science Foundation for Arts(20ZD02)

The Humanities and Social Sciences Research Foundation of the Ministry of Education of China(18YJA630102)


Preparations for the Beijing Winter Olympics have promoted the rapid development of ice-snow tourism in China, which contributes to achieving the goal of having “300 million people participate in ice-snow sports”. This paper analyzes the status quo and problems associated with the growth of ice-snow tourism in China based on the methods of documentation and field investigation. The results indicate that China’s efforts have born abundant fruits. Notwithstanding, there are still some problems due to the limited time and hastened process of ice-snow tourism development, including unreasonable exploitation, low-quality products and services, imperfect investment and financing system, inadequate management, a single marketing mode, and insufficient talent teams. Compared with developed countries in Europe and the United States, ice-snow tourism in China is in the stage of rapid development. To achieve the high-quality development of ice-snow tourism in China, this paper proposes actions from eight aspects which involve policy, products and services, marketing, safety management and control, talent teams, standardization construction, science and technology, and community participation. This study can provide references for the high-quality development of ice-snow tourism in China, as well as perfecting Chinese theoretical research on ice-snow tourism.

Cite this article

TANG Chengcai , ZENG Rui , YANG Yuanyuan , XU Shiyi , WANG Xin . High-quality Development Paths of Ice-snow Tourism in China from the Perspective of the Winter Olympics[J]. Journal of Resources and Ecology, 2022 , 13(4) : 552 -563 . DOI: 10.5814/j.issn.1674-764x.2022.04.002

1 Introduction

The ice-snow tourism in China has thrived since Beijing’s successful bid for the Winter Olympics, which contributes to achieving the goal of having “300 million people participate in ice-snow sports” set by the Chinese government. However, many problems have been exposed due to the limited time and hastened progress of its development, such as ecological environment damage, frequent safety accidents and an imperfect market supervision system, which seriously threaten the sustainable and high-quality development of ice-snow tourism.
Figuring out how to seize the precious opportunities brought by the Winter Olympics and how to make ice-snow tourism flourish in China have become the focus of studies in recent years. One group of these studies has concentrated on the tourism destinations which are in Northeast China with rich natural ice-snow resources, such as Heilongjiang Province (Sun and Liu, 2019), Liaoning Province (An, 2021), and Jilin Province (Zhang and Tong, 2012), while others showed their solicitude for the southern regions like Sichuan Province (Feng, 2020), which has ice-snow resources in a stretch of mountains. Thanks to these efforts, Chinese ice-snow tourism has based its theoretical support on the transition from “World of ice-snow” to “Invaluable asset”, which has in turn significantly pushed it towards industrialization. Based on this, some researchers have placed their emphasis on the industrial integration of ice- snow tourism, which has become an effective method to optimize the structure of the ice-snow tourism industry (Li and Cui, 2021). Numerous scholars have noted the industrial integration between ice-snow tourism and the information technology industry (Geng and Gao, 2021), cultural industry (Zhang, 2013), sports (Wu, 2020), etc. At the same time, investigators have respectively explored the development model and paths of ice-snow tourism (Liu et al., 2021), as well as ice-snow tourism marketing (Yin, 2020), and have used artificial snowmaking technology to develop ice-snow tourism (Scott et al., 2021). Other studies have proposed using the cultural advantages of ice-snow tourism to facilitate winter tourism in Northeast China (Lv et al., 2021) and promote the popularization of the ski industry in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region (Wu et al., 2021). In view of the impact of ice-snow tourism on the ecological environment and bio-climate, many scholars have suggested establishing an ecological environment early warning mechanism to secure the development of ice-snow tourism (Wang et al., 2020; Evin et al., 2021). In summary, the study of ice-snow tourism in China currently pays more attention to certain local areas and specific contents involved in the industry. Therefore, there is a lack of overall and systematic research on the status quo and high-quality development paths in the context of the Beijing Winter Olympics.
The main aim of this study is to analyze the high-quality development of the ice-snow tourism from three dimensions: status quo, problems and paths for improvement. In the first part, we evaluate the status quo of ice-snow tourism from the six perspectives of resources and products, destinations, economy, markets, policies, and management. In the next part, we demonstrate the problems of ice-snow tourism development from the six aspects of exploitation, products, investment and financing, management, marketing, and the talents involved. Finally, in response to these problems, high-quality development paths are proposed. Through the above work, this paper gives a wholistic view of the ice-snow tourism in China, which will help us achieve a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses in its development and bring inspiration to such destinations. Moreover, the high-quality development paths it outlines can lay the foundation for the sustainable and healthy growth of ice-snow tourism. Last but not least, it can arouse the appropriate concerns regarding the development of ice-snow tourism in the post-Olympic era.

2 Development status quo of ice-snow tourism

Compared with other areas, such as Europe and the United States, ice-snow tourism in China has a weaker foundation since it did not start so early. Fortunately, the preparation for the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022 is helping ice-snow tourism grow faster, driven by the strong publicity and policies.

2.1 Ice-snow tourism resources and products

There are rich and varied ice-snow tourism resources in China. With a large land area and wide spans of latitude and altitude differences, China has good natural conditions for the development of ice-snow tourism. There are two main classifications of ice-snow resources. First, they can be divided into natural ice-snow tourism resources and humanistic ice-snow tourism resources according to their attributes. The former includes ice, snow, rime, glaciers, etc., and the latter embraces ice-snow folklore and cultures, ice-snow festivals, etc. (Deng and Liu, 2021). They can also be divided into natural resources, man-made resources and natural-man-made compound resources in light of their origins. Specifically, natural resources refer to unexplored resources, such as rime, glaciers and other purely natural ice-snow resources, while man-made resources are purely artificial resources like indoor ski resorts, ice-snow theme parks and so on, and natural-man-made compound resources are developed by humans starting from a natural basis, such as alpine ski resorts and ice-snow sports events. The ice-snow tourism resources are situated in the higher latitudes of Northeast China, such as the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Xinjiang, and southern areas with snowy mountains, where natural snowfall and low temperatures make ice-snow easy to produce and store, as well as form the basis of splendid ice-snow cultures like ice sculptures. With these enriched resources, it is easier to exploit the products of ice-snow tourism. At the moment, many ice-snow tourism products have been developed in China, which can be divided into 4 categories and 11 subclasses according to their functions (Fig. 1). Consequently, tourism route design has become an essential part of tourism development in China. The ice-snow tourism routes which have clear themes and rich connotations would optimize the structure of ice-snow tourism products. Various kinds of recreational tourism forms, such as “ice-snow plus parent-child, ice-snow plus food, ice-snow plus homestay inn” have enriched the singular types of the products. There are two types of tourism routes, medium routes and micro routes. The medium routes are the linkages between provinces and cities, which are longer and most have a tour time of more than three days. A quintessential example would be that of the Tourism Committee of Yanqing, Beijing, which has planned six ice-snow tourism routes in Beijing and Zhangjiakou City, promoting tourists to ignite the enthusiasm for winter sports while enjoying the rich folk-cultural life. Meanwhile, the micro routes consist of about one to two-day tours and their spatial span is narrower. Finally, in order to ensure the supply and quality of the above products, the industry standard “Ski Tourism Resort Classification” was officially released and implemented in October 2021. It was compiled by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the People’s Republic of China (MCATPRC) in conjunction with the General Administration of Sport (GAS), and puts forward clear requirements for the construction of ice-snow tourism resorts, which promotes the standardization process.
Fig. 1 Transformation diagram of the ice-snow tourism resource and product system

2.2 Ice-snow tourism destinations

Ice-snow tourism destinations have spread all over the China. Specifically, the natural ice-snow tourism destinations are primarily in North China and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, while there are also quite a few scattered spots in the southern mountainous areas. The destinations in the Northeast and Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region are the core of Chinese ice-snow tourism, and Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Sichuan Province, Hubei Province and other places play the role of sub-development centers. Relying on good geographical advantages, superior resources and a strong historical ice-snow background, Northeast tourism destinations such as Harbin in Heilongjiang Province and Changbai Mountain in Jilin Province are at the forefront of Chinese ice-snow tourism. Not only in these areas with abundant resources, but destinations in other parts of China have also developed apace thanks to the Beijing Winter Olympics. Driven by policies and the sprawling market, ice-snow tourism destinations with low endowment resources have started to establish indoor ski resorts, which have achieved considerable growth on a larger scale (Zhao, 2021). As proof, the Guangzhou Sunac Snow Park has already radiated to cities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA), Hunan, Hubei, Yunnan, Sichuan and other provinces, providing a new platform for the in-depth implementation of the ice-snow sports expansion strategy. Shanghai is also building the largest indoor ski resort in the world, the Shanghai Snow Star.

2.3 Ice-snow economy

The ice-snow economy and ice-snow tourism have become important economic patterns in China. Above all, the total scale of the ice-snow economy is quite large with a fast growth rate. From 270 billion yuan in 2015 to 423.5 billion yuan in 2019, the scale of the ice-snow industry has been growing rapidly (China Institute of New Economy & Jilin Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism, 2020). Furthermore, the number of ice-snow enterprises is quite large and they are widely distributed. At present, the number of enterprises registered in China that are engaged in ice-snow tourism related business is about 6540, including 591 newly registered enterprises in 2020 and 2376 enterprises within three years of registration. In the past three years, the number of Chinese ice-snow tourism enterprises has increased at an annual rate of 15%, and expanded widely to 31 provinces except for Guangxi, Fujian and Jiangxi (China Tourism Academy, 2021). Last but not least, investment in the ice-snow industry is sweeping. According to incomplete statistics, in the three years from 2018 to 2020, the total investment scale of China’s ice-snow tourism heavy assets project is nearly 900 billion yuan, of which Jilin ranked first, absorbing about 150 billion yuan of social capital.

2.4 Ice-snow tourism market

A certain ice-snow tourism market scale has been established and it has maintained rapid growth. The number of ice-snow tourists in China during the 2018-2019 ice-snow season was 224 million, and the income was approximately 386 billion yuan, which represented increases of 13.7% and 17.1%, respectively, compared with the 2017-2018 ice-snow season, according to the big data report on China's ice-snow tourism consumption (2020) published by China Tourism Academy (CTA) and Ctrip Joint Laboratory of Tourism Big Data (CJLTBD). By 2025, at the end of the 14th Five-Year Plan in China, estimates predict that the number of ice-snow tourists in China will exceed 500 million, and the income from ice-snow tourism will exceed 1.1 trillion yuan (CTA and CJLTBD, 2020). Ice-snow tourism will absolutely become the core engine of winter tourism and the ice-snow economy, and the mass ice-snow era in China is coming. By the way, the Winter Olympics is a good opportunity to promote ice-snow tourism. In 2020, a notice on launching a national ice-snow tourism promotion was jointly issued by the MCATPRC, GAS and the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, which is a good example of promotion at the national level and will systematically propagandize ice-snow tourism through a combination of online and offline methods. In addition, local governments such as the People’s Government of Beijing use images, VR and other media to carry out ice-snow tourism publicity activities. Furthermore, a surging number of ice-snow cities are focusing on shaping their brand images. In order to achieve the goal, successful city brands must consider the current tourism consumption needs (Xu, 2014). Under the background of the Winter Olympics, ice-snow tourism is in great demand in China. Some cities, like Harbin, Chongli, Yanqing, have therefore launched their ice-snow tourism slogans to attract tourists.

2.5 Ice-snow tourism policy

Since the successful bid to host the Winter Olympics, the national and local governments have issued relevant policies which involve a wide range and detailed content to strengthen the growth of ice-snow tourism, leading to rapid and normative development. According to incomplete statistics, Beijing, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Sichuan and 20 other provinces and cities have carried out comprehensive planning and overall development of the infrastructure, products and scenic spots of ice-snow tourism. Correspondingly, the state has issued more than ten policies related to ice-snow tourism and sports since 2015 (Table 1). Ice-snow tourism in China has entered a stage of high growth development as a result of these policies.
Table 1 Policies related to ice-snow tourism issued by national ministries and local governments
Level Year Name of policies Issuing institutions
Central Government 2019 Opinions on Taking the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics As an Opportunity to Vigorously Develop Ice-snow Sports General Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, General Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
2019 Opinions of the General Office of the State Council on Promoting National Fitness and Sports Consumption and Promoting the High-quality Development of the Sports Industry General Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
National Ministry 2016 Ice-snow Sports Development Plan (2016-2025) National Development and Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China, General Administration of Sport, Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China, National Tourism Administration of the People’s Republic of China
2016 National Ice-snow Field Facilities Construction Plan (2016- 2022) 7 departments including National Development and Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China, National Tourism Administration of the People’s Republic of China, etc.
2016 Mass Winter Sports Promotion and Popularization Plan 23 departments including State Taxation Administration, Ministry of Land and Resources of the People’s Republic of China, etc.
2018 Implementation Outline of “Bringing 300 Million People to Participate in Ice-snow Sports” (2018-2022) General Administration of Sport
2021 Ice-snow Tourism Development Action Plan (2021-2023) Ministry of Culture and tourism of the People’s Republic of China, National Development and Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China, General Administration of Sport
Local Government 2016 Opinions of the People’s Government of Beijing Municipality on Accelerating the Development of Ice-snow Sports (2016-2022) The People’s Government of Beijing Municipality
2017 Sichuan Province Ice-snow Sports Development Plan (2016-2025) The People’s Government of Sichuan Province
2019 Implementation Opinions on Taking the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics As an Opportunity to Vigorously Develop Ice-snow Sports and Ice-snow Economy The People’s Government of Jilin Province
2020 Heilongjiang Province Ice-snow Tourism Industry Development Plan (2020-2030) Heilongjiang Provincial Culture and Tourism Office
2016 Hebei Province Winter Sports Development Plan (2015- 2022) Hebei Provincial Sports Bureau, Hebei Development and Reform Commission
2021 Hebei Province Ice-snow Tourism Development Implementation Plan (2021-2023) The People’s Government of Heibei Province
2021 China (Changbai Mountains-Altai Mountains) Ice-snow Economic High-quality Development Pilot Area Master Plan The People’s Government of Jilin Province and The Government of Xinjiang

2.6 Ice-snow tourism management

Ice-snow tourism in China developed too recently to have a mature management system. In particular, deficiencies in market supervision, safety management and service management have hindered the ice-snow tourism management to some extent, due to the characteristics of the high risk of snow sports and the high demand for ice-snow service. In the first place, the level of regulation of the ice-snow tourism market has been continually enhanced with the development of Internet technology. China has increased the degree of intelligence in the ice-snow tourism market supervision and expanded the capacity for the precise management of market chaos. For example, the national tourism supervision service platform was officially launched in 2018, which offers the market supervision system an important guarantee. In the second place, frequent safety accidents have forced the safety management of ice-snow tourism to be strengthened. Tourist casualties in the ice- snow scenic spots have occurred frequently with the increasing scale of the ice-snow tourism market (Table 2), which has served as a warning for safety management. Therefore, many administrative departments attach great importance to the safety management of ice-snow tourism. For instance, in order to implement the main body responsible for safety accidents, it is essential to strengthen supervision and safety publicity and to reduce the rate of safety accidents in ice-snow tourism. GAS issued “Several Opinions on Further Strengthening the Safety Management of Ice-snow Sports Places” in 2019, and the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sports issued the “Notice of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sports on Further Strengthening the Safety Management of Ski Places” in 2021. In addition, ice-snow tourism service is revealed with regard to different aspects. On one hand, actively supporting transportation, accommodation, catering, entertainment and other facilities meets the primary needs of customers. For example, Jilin and other major ice-snow provinces are planning to provide ice-snow enthusiasts with railway carriages for skiing equipment. On the other, for the convenience of ice-snow tourists and the quality of ice-snow play, a ski card was launched by Yabuli Ski Resorts.
Table 2 Some safety accidents in China’s ice-snow tourism in recent years
Year Location Cause of the accident Accident level Casualties
2017 Sanchang Ski Resort, Julu County, Hebei Province Facility construction is not up to standards General accident 5 people injured
2017 Wanlong Ski Resort in Chongli, Zhangjiakou Unreasonable ski slope design General accident 1 person died
2017 Taiwu Ski Resort in Chongli Facilities and equipment are not up to standards General accident 1 person died
2020 Wanlong Ski Resort in Chongli, Zhangjiakou The unsound supporting medical service system General accident 1 person died
2020 Ice Lantern and Snow Sculpture Hall, Taiqi Mountain Scenic Area, Shanxi Province Catastrophic fire Major accident 13 people died, 15 injured
2021 Yunding Ski Resort in Chongli, Zhangjiakou Unreasonable facility layout General accident 1 person died

3 Problems in the development of ice-snow tourism

While ice-snow tourism in China has made considerable achievements by taking the opportunity presented by the Beijing Winter Olympics, there are still many problems with its development.

3.1 Unreasonable exploitation

With the successful bid for Beijing Winter Olympics, ice- snow tourism has bloomed in China. Meanwhile, unreasonable development issues have emerged. Above all, planning is a crucial problem for a large number of ice-snow tourist destinations, such as issues of outdated infrastructure and service facilities, the absence of tourism products in non-snow seasons and the imbalance between ice-snow tourism development and the ecological environment. Furthermore, China has a long history of ice-snow cultural activities and a variety of contemporary cultures with diverse characteristics have been created especially with the support of the Beijing Winter Olympics. Unfortunately, there is a lack of thorough exploitation of ice-snow folk cultural resources, ice-snow sports and sightseeing are the main categories of ice-snow tourism as usual. Although ice-snow tourism has taken a big step forward, it is still hindered by the imbalance between ice-snow resources and the consumer market. Obviously, the southern region is a critical consumer market in China, while its ice-snow resources are relatively deficient. Consequently, it is difficult to meet the diversified demands of tourists only through artificial indoor ski resorts in the city and sightseeing products relying on limited mountain resources. Furthermore, regarding the late development of ice-snow tourism in China, its industry has some outstanding shortcomings. On one hand, it does not integrate the ice-snow industry and the tourism industry as effectively as it could (Qin, 2021), and the interactive development is not sufficient (Liu and Cheng, 2020). On the other hand, the internal innovation capability is not favorable for high-quality development. For example, the ice-snow equipment industry, such as snow-making machines (Fig. 2), depends on imports.
Fig. 2 Comparison of the domestic and imported quantities and proportions of new snow-making machines in ski resorts in China

Note: Data are from 2020 China Ski Industry White Paper (Wu, 2021).

3.2 Low product quality

There is a serious gap between the design and production of ice-snow tourism products and customer demand. Most tourism operators tend to imitate tourism products intentionally or unintentionally, mainly relying on ice-snow natural resources to conduct sightseeing, sports, vacations and recreation. Accordingly, the products are commonly lack of connotation and novelty. On one hand, most products are designed on the basis of natural resources. On the other hand, their design and manufacturing process is rough and slipshod, with less integration of the folk ice-snow culture, modern technology and characteristic IP. Furthermore, high prices and fewer items have been the most frequent complaints from tourists (CTA, 2021). What’s worse, the lack of market supervision has further exacerbated the problem of inconsistency between prices and goods, which has resulted in more customer complaints, and has seriously damaged the images of destinations and the profitability of enterprises. In 2017, the outbreak of the event “incidents of tourists being deceived” in the Snowtown of Heilongjiang Province, led to declines in its tourist arrivals, brand influence, and reputation (Wang, 2019).

3.3 Imperfect investment and financing mode

According to the “China Ice-snow Tourism Development Report 2021”, emerging ice-snow tourism destinations have become important investment areas. From 2018 to 2020, the total investment of heavy asset investment projects in ice-snow tourism in China was nearly 900 billion yuan (CTA, 2021). Despite all this, there are still some problems in its narrow financing channels and low investment attractiveness. In the case of risky ice-snow sports and tourism, it is difficult to get an ideal return on investment. Wanlong Ski Resort in Chongli District, for example, turned a profit after 11 consecutive years of losses. Also, the income from investment is uncertain. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, 37.62% of ice-snow companies’ income fell by more than 50% (Beijing Olympic City Development Association et al., 2020), and 50.6% of people who ever have participated in ice-snow sports “completely canceled” the sports participation plan (National Survey Research Center at Renmin University of China, 2020). The impact of the epidemic on the tourist flows and tourism investment, and whether the enthusiasm for ice-snow tourism can be sustained after the Beijing Winter Olympics, have increased the risk perception of investors. In addition, the investment and financing service system is not sound. For example, the laws and regulations regarding investment and financing policies are not perfect. Hence, it is still tough to prevent and resolve conflicts between investors and national and local development plans.

3.4 Inadequate management

Even though great efforts have been made to manage the emerging market, problems such as equipment failures and skiing accidents occur frequently. Investigating the reasons, they are mainly found to be the mixed business entities and vague market access standards. Consequently, industry management needs to be standardized. Considering the high risk of ice-snow sports, there is a contrasting lack of conservation measures. Quite a few destinations have faulty service facilities and inadequate safeguard measures, such as safety warnings and medical stations, which fully shows the improper destination management. Moreover, many enterprises, especially medium-sized and micro, have inadequate service and professional skills. Most of them are inexperienced in the introduction and training of talent, and have poor management abilities regarding equipment, facilities and venues. Accordingly, it is necessary to build a digital, full supervision in real-time and risk management system. Last but not least, tourist management is so formidable that we can often see many tourists' uncivilized behaviors, including destroying ice-snow resources, polluting the ecological environment, and unreasonable use of venues and facilities, just to name a few. Most of the methods adopted for dealing with them are admonitions or fines, while the effect of education is not fully realized. In summary, there is no denying that the supervision and regulation need to be improved, and punishment and education methods need to be updated.

3.5 Single marketing mode

Ice-snow tourism marketing in China is primarily carried out by a single entity, which gives rise to a poor marketing publicity effect lacking in regionally integrated marketing. Additionally, most brands are concentrated in the north of China, showing obvious regional characteristics. Nonetheless, there are few well-known brands. The report data notes that 16 of the top 20 ice-snow tourist sources are southern cities (CTA and CJLTBD, 2020), indicating its strong consumption potential. Sadly, the ice-snow tourism products and marketing in the south are relatively scarce, which results in a serious spatial mismatch between the market demand and product supply. Namely, the market and product are still traditionally resource-oriented. In 2020, among the top three tiers of ice-snow enterprises, only Guangdong was shortlisted in the southern region (CTA, 2021). Actually, the ice-snow tourism market in China is not big enough yet. Taking the popular ski tourism project as an example, the number of domestic skiers in 2019 was only 13.05 million (Wu, 2020), and the skiing penetration had not reached 2% (Fig. 3), which is far lower than the approximate rate of 34% in developed countries and regions such as Austria (Laurent, 2019).
Fig. 3 Change in the Chinese skiing penetration rate

Notes: 1) Skiing penetration rate refers to the penetration rate of the skiing population, which is equal to the proportion of skiing population in the total population of the country. 2) The total population data from 2014 to 2019 are from the Statistical Bulletin of National Economic and Social Development of the National Bureau of statistics over the years, and the total number of skiers is from the China Ski Industry White Paper of Wu Bin from 2014 to 2019. The total population in 2020 comes from the Forecast of the National Population Development Plan (2016-2030), and the total number of skiers comes from the Forecast of the 2016-2021 China Indoor Ski Resort Industry Market Analysis and Investment Prospect Consulting Report issued by the Chinese Academy of Commerce Industry.

3.6 Absence of talent teams

The recently increasing number of ice-snow tourist destinations are short of professional talents. This context under lines the urgent need for compound and professional talent teams in enterprise operation, tourism management, resource management, ice-snow sports training, etc. Furthermore, there is a regional disparity in ice-snow sports curriculum (Li and Li, 2020). Even in the northern regions, where the ice-snow industry developed earlier and better, the ski courses originally planned by some colleges and universities had to be shelved owing to the resource management mode, site conditions, teachers and other restrictions (Liu, 2019). Although a number of policies have been issued at the national level to guide related talent training, there is a great chasm between the specific implementation in local areas and macro guidance, leading to the insufficient support for talent training. Thus, the talent training system needs to be customized for each region according to its actual situation. In fact, China has not launched a unified set of standards for training and coaching talents. For instance, the National Vocational Skill Standards for Social Sports Instructors are only limited to skating, skiing and other professional projects, while the identification of standards for trainers of some projects more suitable for the public are still missing or imperfect.

4 High-quality development paths

Based on the above status quo and problems, the high-quality development paths of ice-snow tourism in China can be discussed from eight aspects including policy, product, marketing, etc. (Fig. 4).
Fig. 4 High-quality development paths of ice-snow tourism in China

4.1 Formulate a scientific and reasonable policy system

On one hand, complete the policy system. Aiming at the weaknesses of available policies, the government should play a leading role and formulate relevant policies to perfect the policy system. It could start from aspects like exploitation, management, and marketing by taking advantage of Beijing Winter Olympics, meanwhile, grasping their linkages among various policies. On the other hand, attach importance to the sustainability and implementation of the policies. The government needs to publish progressive policies to support the development of ice-snow tourism in the post-Beijing-Winter-Olympics era, and make sure they will be carried out by local governments, enterprises and institutions, for the sake of a continuous investment and financing environment.

4.2 Improve the product and service system

First, build a region-based tourism product system. Integrate the region-based tourism development concept, which is embodied in the change from a single product to an ice- snow complex and town, so that an ice-snow tourism product system with diversified products and industries can be built (Table 3). Second, realize a four-season operation mode. Products in the snow season should be strengthened. In addition, those in the non-snow season should be designed and devoted to implementing the transformation from the “ice mountains and snow sceneries are invaluable assets” mode in the snow season to the “Lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets” mode in the non-snow season. Third, improve the tourism service system. Focusing on the six elements of tourism, including “food, accommodation, travel, visit, shopping and entertainment”, a government-led and multi-participant public service system should be constructed to upgrade the infrastructure, tourism public service facilities and the service quality of staff in an all-around manner.
Table 3 Product system of ice-snow tourism
Classifications Contents Project examples
Ice-snow sightseeing Natural landscape Ice falls, rime, glaciers, etc.
Cultural landscape Ice sculptures, ice lanterns, snow sculptures, etc.
Ice-snow sports Snow sport events Snowboarding, freestyle skiing, alpine skiing, etc.
Ice sport events Short track speed skating, figure skating, ice hockey, etc.
Other leisure sports Ice climbing, mountain climbing, ice fishing, snow football, etc.
Ice-snow recreation and vacation Ice-snow theme parks Ice amusement items, snow amusement items, etc.
Ice-snow holiday tourism areas Ice-snow town, ice-snow resort, etc.
Ice-snow themed hotels and camps Igloo ice hotel, snow inn, ice-snow campground, etc.
Ice-snow events Events Winter Olympics, local sports festivals, etc.
Entertainment Ice-snow dance festival, ice-snow music festival, etc.
Experience Ice-snow picking, ice-snow culture experience, etc.
Study Ice-snow sports research base, ice-snow sports training base, etc.

4.3 Cultivate a multi-dimension marketing system

First, establish a region-based tourism marketing system. Combine traditional and Internet marketing methods, further integrate the whole marketing resource base of ice-snow tourist destinations and convene all the business entities in the region, so we could launch integrated marketing by means of joint investments. To put it in practical terms, Yanqing of Beijing joined forces with Zhangjiakou to build the sports culture tourism belt of Beijing-Zhangjiakou, where more than 70 high-quality ice-snow resources have been jointly marketed. Second, promote the ice-snow tourism culture and cultivate its market. Make efforts to expand the ice-snow influence on the public, especially the younger generation, and also promote its cultural growth in South China, owing to accurately identifying and cultivating the main consumer groups. With the help of the Winter Olympics platform, we could tell the story of Chinese ice-snow on our own initiative and conduct cross-cultural international communication, and therefore, the target of exporting the charm of Chinese culture will be achieved. Third, create a unique ice-snow tourism brand. China covers a vast territory, and as a consequence, it is extremely crucial for each region to make full use of their characteristics to create an exclusive brand and effectively avoid homogeneous development. For example, use destination brand gene extraction methods to build a well-known ice-snow tourism brand system.

4.4 Construct a management and control system of green development and ecological security

First, practice the green development concept. Guided by ecological priority and green development, the locations and scales of ice-snow tourism projects must be controlled. Furthermore, improve the planning skills of ice-snow tourism, which will allow for the realization of some national goals such as rural revitalization, double-carbon goals, etc. Second, strengthen ecological civilization construction. For the purpose of maintaining the ecological security of ice-snow tourist destinations, the government should bring regular and standardized monitoring of the ecological environment into force, and likewise elevate the strict management and control of ice-snow tourism enterprises. Third, cultivate tourists’ civilized qualities. The quality needs of ice-snow tourists must be met while intensifying their environmental education to foster civilized tourists. Fourth, improve the ability to prevent and control the epidemic. All ice-snow tourism destinations must strictly implement the COVID-19 prevention policies, and the specific plans formulated by the central and local governments at all levels, to reduce the risk of epidemic outbreaks in ice-snow tourist destinations.

4.5 Establish an ice-snow tourism talent system

On one hand, cultivate professional talents. Universities and colleges should dynamically adjust the setting of disciplines in accordance with regional characteristics and industrial development plans, which requires both “bring in” and “go out” perspectives. Relevant professionals should be hired to augment the teaching staff, and personnel should be sent to foreign countries to learn the development experiences of their ice-snow industries. Consequently, this effort should concentrate on continuously training professional ice-snow talents including athletes, coaches, ambulance personnel, equipment maintenance persons, event hosts, etc. On the other hand, cultivate interdisciplinary talents. To overcome the bottleneck of talent development in ice-snow tourism and realize the cultivation and application of “cross-industry” talents, we should combine the industry characteristics with ice-snow tourism, and also strengthen the linkages among departments. In the end, build a composite talent pool of the ice-snow industry with various capabilities, such as tourism knowledge, sports skills, management, marketing, etc.

4.6 Enhance the standardization of construction

First, consolidate the standardization of hardware facilities. The government and industry departments must draft construction standards for ice-snow tourism projects to effectively guide the industrial development. They are supposed to formulate and revise standards for equipment, facilities, site planning, etc. (MCATPRC, 2021). Second, promote the standardization of management and service software. Establish a standard system for the management and service of ice-snow tourism. Just to name just a few, a risk management system involving government, enterprises, tourists and other entities should be built, and the safety contingency plan and emergency rescue system for ice-snow tourism with regular drills should be clarified. Third, advance regulatory standardization. Reinforce the supervision of the ice-snow tourism market and keep its competition healthy, while strictly controlling various indicators such as qualification reviews and business licenses in the interest of raising the market access “threshold”.

4.7 Upgrade the level of science and technology

First, facilitate the intelligent construction of ice-snow tourism. Vigorously develop “Internet+ice-snow tourism”, which promotes the integration of ice-snow tourism with new technologies such as big data, cloud computing, and 5G, for the sake of constructing the smart tourism systems to carry out resource allocation and information integration. For example, optimize information consultation, transportation and communications, and event ticket booking through digital construction. Second, speed up the technical improvement and automation of ice-snow tourism equipment manufacturing. Based on increasing the investment in ice-snow equipment, steadily facilitate the construction of the ice-snow tourism equipment industrial parks and gathering areas, which gives full play to the industrial agglomeration effect, so as to create China’s own ice-snow industry chain. Third, actively push forward the low-carbon development of ice-snow tourism. Pay full attention to the research and application of environmentally friendly technologies such as cleaner production technology, low-carbon technology, and green design technology, in order to promote the low-carbon level of ice-snow tourism projects.

4.8 Promote community participation

First, enhance the residents’ ability to participate in ice- snow tourism work. Trains and educational opportunities related to ice-snow tourism should be provided so residents can improve their management and service skills. Second, establish a reasonable mechanism for allowing residents to participate in ice-snow tourism development. Local residents should be guided to actively take part in the development and decision-making, such as project planning, ecological civilization construction and tourism activities, which contributes to the inheritance of folk culture, employment opportunities for residents, as well as the social and economic growth in ice-snow tourism destinations. Third, build a sound risk-and-benefit-sharing mechanism. The government, enterprises, and communities should jointly establish a reasonable benefit-distribution mechanism, which shares both benefits and risks with residents, and would increase the community residents’ recognition and sense of participation on the development of ice-snow tourism.

5 Discussion and conclusions

5.1 Discussion

Based on the above-mentioned analyses, we recognize there are many problems worthy of further discussion in the future.
To start with, perfect the research framework and perspective of ice-snow tourism. Recent research mainly focuses on the development history, challenges, and countermeasures, while the perspective is basically based on tourism resources and industrial structure. This industry is closely related to many others industries, however, the focus primarily on sports activities has led to a rather narrow research focus for ice-snow tourism (Bausch and Gartner, 2020). With the comprehensive application of interdisciplinary issues and the accumulation of substantial case studies, more scholars will look at such topics as development law, temporal and spatial evolution, integration mechanisms, guarantee systems, etc. For example, there are frequent safety accidents that are worthy of further study to determine their causes, such as the insufficient planning and construction of safety facilities, the absence of professional practitioners, and the lack of safety education for tourists, which bring about security risks to the skiers and others. Besides, there are additional reasons to investigate further.
Then, strengthen the conquest of technology and patents. The development of ice-snow tourism requires the integration of various science and technology fields, yet only a few papers have discussed the technical dimensions from the ice-snow runway (White and McCallum, 2018), ice-snow stadium refrigeration technology (Shen et al., 2021), ice-snow melting properties (Sun et al., 2018), etc. The scientific research and development of clean, green and low-carbon technologies need to be taken seriously. Since the majority of natural resource-dependent ice-snow tourism destinations with abundant and stable ice-snow resources are located in remote and poverty-stricken areas around the mountains, their exploitation may threaten the construction of ecological civilization. As a result, balancing the relationship among ice-snow tourism development, resource utilization efficiency and ecological environment protection have been crucial factors for realizing the sustainable development of ice-snow tourism.
Next, highlight the application of big data. The research on ice-snow tourism involves a range of technical indicators. With scholars paying more and more attention to ice-snow tourism, as well as big data continuously providing momentum owning to the large-scale production and the quality improvement and value mining of big data (Li and Du, 2020), internet-based big data research methods will be widely used in the future.
Furthermore, the government plays a vital role in the growth of ice-snow tourism, who should strengthen its functional role positioning. On one hand, the vigorous development of the ice-snow tourism industry is inseparable from its policy support. The preparations for the Winter Olympics have motivated the government to actively take various measures to promote the development of ice-snow tourism, including the launch of advance plans and the establishment of relevant institutions and research organizations. On the other hand, the healthy development of the ice-snow tourism industry is inseparable from its reasonable control, such as market supervision, ecological environment supervision, epidemic control, construction standardization, etc. The government's macro-control mechanism for ice-snow tourism is under exploration.
Last but not least, focus on the sustainable development of ice-snow tourism in China in the post-Beijing-Winter Olympic era. Benefiting from the preparations for the Winter Olympics, ice-snow tourism in China has made great achievements in recent years. Notwithstanding, it is unknown for China and the whole world whether it could show a sustainable development trend or achieve the goal of having “300 million people participate in ice-snow” after the Winter Olympics. What is comforting is that all sectors of the society have strived to put forward suggestions from various aspects, such as the utilization of landscape heritage, cultural heritage, and venue heritage, which is beneficial for realizing sustainable development.

5.2 Conclusions

This paper systematically analyzes the status quo, problems and high-quality development paths of ice-snow tourism in China based on the methods of literature and field investigation. This analysis led to three main conclusions. (1) The preparation for the Beijing Winter Olympics has facilitated the rapid development of ice-snow tourism in China, which presents the following characteristics: various kinds of ice-snow tourism products have been developed with abundant resources; ice-snow tourism destinations have gradually spread all over the country; the ice-snow tourism market and economy continue to expand; the massive promulgation of policies guarantees the development of ice-snow tourism in China; and the ice-snow tourism management system is not mature yet. (2) While attaining tremendous achievements, there are still some problems in the planning, development and management, including unreasonable exploitation, low-quality products and services, an imperfect investment and financing system, inadequate management, a single marketing mode, and insufficient talent teams. In a nutshell, compared with developed countries in Europe and the United States, ice-snow tourism in China is in the stage of rapid development. (3) To achieve the high-quality development of ice-snow tourism in China, this paper proposes actions from eight aspects, which involve policy, products and services, marketing, safety management and control, talent teams, standardization construction, science and technology, and community participation.
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