Beijing Games inspire people to take to the snow and ice in tourism boost
China's successful hosting of the Beijing Winter Olympics will spur growth in winter sports and related tourism industries in the Asia-Pacific region, experts said.
Winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding and ice skating are something of a novelty in most of Asia, where many countries have a tropical climate. However, that situation could change as people are evincing more interest due to the Beijing Games and the international media coverage that has accompanied them. The event wrapped up on Sunday.
As borders gradually reopen, experts believe there will be greater demand for winter tourism, with more people aware now that in Asian countries such as China, Japan, South Korea and Pakistan, one can enjoy ice and snow during the cold months.
Fayik Abdi, an Alpine skier and the first Saudi Arabian and Gulf athlete to participate in the Winter Olympics, said it would be great to see more countries in Asia participate and compete in winter sports.
Fayik said he was impressed with the National Alpine Skiing Center in the Yanqing district of Beijing, where skiing took place in the Games.
"I think that China really has potential to breed really strong skiers and I was really impressed with the venue. I thought it was really well done and fitting to what we need," he said.
Fayik said ski centers are being built in his country to encourage more Saudis to take up the sport.
"I think it will definitely be a success since people are willing to try new activities and sports," he said.
In Saudi Arabia, the Majid Al-Futtaim retail and hospitality conglomerate is developing the Mall of Saudi, which will feature the world's largest indoor ski slope and snow dome, the Riyadh-based newspaper Arab News has reported.
Loron Orris, co-founder of Asia Sports Tech, a Hong Kong-based consultancy engaged in sports and technology, said the development of a "winter sports ecosystem" in the Chinese mainland will influence other countries in Asia and beyond.
"You're already seeing a number of people from China skiing in Japan, in South Korea, as well as in North America and in Europe. I think it's just going to accelerate the number of participants going to those other markets as well," Orris said.
In the Philippines, the country's biggest shopping mall, SM Mall of Asia, reopened its indoor ice-skating rink last month to celebrate the Philippines' lone representative in the Winter Games, Alpine skier Asa Miller. An exhibition, Together on Ice, was also held to promote ice sports.
In Pakistan, the participation of Alpine skier Muhammad Karim in the Winter Olympics is expected not only to spark interest in winter sports among young people but also encourage more foreigners to pay a visit to Pakistan for winter tourism.
Pakistan's lone representative to the Olympics is from Gilgit-Baltistan. The northern Pakistani region is famed for its ski resorts and snow-capped mountains.
Sadruddin Hunzai, secretary-general of the Pakistan Association of Tour Operators, said: "Pakistan is a mountainous country with a lot of potential for winter sports. We have some of the world's best ski resorts."
He hopes that Pakistan's participation in the Olympics will allow the country to learn more from China's expertise in organizing winter sports events.
Gilgit-Baltistan hosted a winter festival in January with competitions such as ice hockey and paragliding, he said. Representatives from foreign embassies and domestic tourists attended.
"We have a significant potential. We have given a very positive message to the world that this part of Pakistan, the northern part, is very suitable for winter sports," he said.