An expanding market
Known for its plentiful powder snow, Niseko is Japan’s premier ski resort. It has been at the front line as Asia’s growing middle classes make their first foray in to overseas skiing. Asians have now overtaken Australians as the largest overseas visitor group to the resort, led by the Chinese. A weaker yen, relaxation of visa requirements and airport capacity expansion has seen international tourist numbers in Japan surge by 47% in the year to July 2015, totalling 11.1 million in July 2015.
Alpine resorts will do well to watch how demand in Niseko evolves. As the outbound Asian ski market deepens and matures we may expect more interest in Europe and North America. Switzerland has been an early beneficiary, actively targeting the lucrative Chinese market with dedicated holiday packages and mandarin-speaking ski instructors.
Across Switzerland, overnight hotel stays by Chinese guests increased 33% last year (all nationalities were down 1% over the same period). Many Chinese see skiing as status-enhancing so attending the ‘right’ resort is key. Prime resorts, particularly those with a diverse non-ski offer (retail, restaurants, spas), and ‘soft ski’ offer (sledding, skating, horse carriage riding) will fare best.
FIGURE 8Origin of international overnight visitors, Niseko