di Adrian Bishop, Editor di OPP.Today (Overseas Property Professional, leading global business information and media group)
The ski property markets are currently dominated by Europe and North American resorts but in a few years, Asian and Eastern Europe resorts are predicted to start to take over.
It is estimated that the total of annual ski visits around the world has been stable for the last few years at around 400million.
But thanks to expected growth in parts of Asia and Eastern Europe, by 2020 that number is likely to rise to more than 420milllion visits, says the “2016 International Report on Mountain Tourism” from specialist, Laurent Vanat.
The region already has more than 1,100 ski areas, which is comparable to the Alps or Western Europe, with much more scope for growth.
“With more than 800 million inhabitants, the population of this vast region is twice that of the Alps and Western Europe, but skis six times less.”
Leading international agency Knight Frank has identified in its “Ski 2016 Report” six up-and-coming countries from Asia and Eastern Europe, where skiing and ski property demand is likely to grow.
Japan’s ski resorts surged in number during the 1980s but the following decade saw interest wane due to the economic downturn. Niseko, located on the country’s northern island of Hokkaido, is the country’s largest ski resort, boasting 55 km of pistes and one of the world’s largest night skiing operations. New investment is now taking place but Japan’s ageing population remains a key challenge for the industry.
In 2000 China was home to 50 ski resorts, by 2015 this figure had risen to 568 ski resorts which together hosted over 12.5m ski visits. Most resorts fall short of western standards but the awarding of the Winter Olympics to Beijing in 2022 is expected to improve the number and quality of facilities. According to President Xi Jinping, the Games will inspire 300m Chinese to take up winter sports.
3. South Korea
Competitively priced compared with neighbouring Japan, South Korea offers facilities of an international standard as well as a good range of non-ski activities from retail to water parks and golf courses. The resort of Pyeongchang, located 180km east of Seoul, is set to host the Winter Olympics in 2018. Given the government’s efforts to promote winter sports on the back of their winning bid the ski industry looks set to expand.
Bansko, home to 5-star hotels and state of the art ski infrastructure, is Bulgaria’s highest quality resort. More than £95m was initially invested by the Sofia-based owners to transform it into a modern ski resort, it now boasts 75kms of ski runs and 14 ski lifts with a capacity of 23,100 people per hour. Skiers seeking a cheaper alternative to the Alps are heading to Bulgarian resorts, with interest from the British, Turkish, Greeks, and French on the increase.
5. Czech Republic
There are over 170 ski resorts in the Czech Republic, most located in the Giant Mountains National Park to the north of the country on the Polish border. Špindleruv Mlýn is the Czech Republic’s equivalent of Chamonix offering 25 kms of groomed ski slopes, five chairlifts, 11 ski lifts, and 85 kms of cross-country trails. The low altitude is offset by snow- making canons enabling skiing to take place throughout the winter season.
Since the late 1940s the ski resort of Shymbulak in the Medeu Valley, near the city of Almaty, has attracted skiers from across Central Asia and Eastern Europe and for several decades it was the resort of choice for Russian skiers. A wave of new investment has put the area back on the map and there are plans to develop several new resorts.
Other countries are also looking to grow their ski sectors, according to the 2016 International Report on Mountain Tourism.
“In the long term, countries such as India and Pakistan may join them and contribute to increasing the weight of Asia in the international spread of skier visits,” it suggests.
“The regions of Eastern Europe & Central Asia and Asia & Pacific provide 33% of the skiers worldwide, but only produce, at this stage, 24% of skier visits. These regions clearly represent the future growth potential of the market.
“Besides, a look at new deliveries of lifts confirms that Eastern European and Asian countries are building up at a higher rate than the more traditional ski regions, if the figures are analysed in relative terms.
“Although consumption patterns of skiing in countries like China still need to be confirmed on a broader scale, it is likely that the Eastern European and Asian markets will grow their skier visit figures over the new decade. They may end up reaching the weight equivalent of the other major regions in terms of skiers by the year 2020. If this growth occurs without affecting skier visits at western resorts, and provided they find adequate ways to address the generational issue, worldwide skier visits may then increase to over 420 million by this date.”