China's resilient fitness sector rolls with the punches

2021-01-05 12:04:31

After lean times during the COVID-19 epidemic early last year, China's sports and fitness sector is bouncing back strongly, with ski resorts reporting an encouraging start to the winter season. XINHUA The year 2020 was a mixed bag for China's sports industry. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the sector was on a fast track of steady growth. According to statistics from the General Administration of Sport of China, the industry grew at an average annual rate of 15.9 percent from 2015 to 2018, with its added value growing at an average annual rate of 22.4 percent for the same period. More gains had been expected this year, but no one could have foreseen the coronavirus outbreak's impact. Almost all major domestic and international sporting events were rescheduled or canceled in the first half of the year. People were reluctant to go outside, and most sports companies struggled to do business. Some didn't survive. According to a report on the resumption of business by the Jiangsu Province Sports Bureau, all of the 116 sports venues it surveyed closed for nearly three months, 125 fitness and training companies closed for three and a half months, while sports supplies manufacturers closed for about a month and a half. All seven ski resorts in Chongli district of Hebei province closed their doors at the beginning of 2020.Nie Ningning, vice-president of Thaiwoo Ski Resort, described the shutdown as one of the biggest crises the complex has faced since its opening. "Before January 18, we had an average daily income of two million yuan (about $306,000), an 80 percent increase over the same period last year," said Nie. However, those good days didn't last long and the huge maintenance costs added severe pressure to the business. Several local governments provided support measures to help sports companies survive. Some provinces and regions issued sports consumption vouchers to boost the recovery process. Chongli District's support measures included tax cuts, and water and electricity subsidies. Some resorts even managed to claw back some of their losses in the summer, with Thaiwoo successfully staging a series of activities from July to October. "Although the summer operation period was three months shorter than usual, our summer revenue is basically the same as last year," said Nie. The new snow season also enjoyed a good start, with the number of visitors and revenue in November increasing by more than 50 percent compared with the same period from the previous year. "Everything is in order, and I believe the new snow season will be a good turnaround," said Nie. The epidemic also sparked a renewed focus on healthy living, to help boost sales of fitness equipment. According to the 2020 Research Report on Public Fitness Behaviors and Consumption, published in September, fitness behaviors and consumption related to home sports goods all increased significantly. Profits from home fitness equipment sales totaled 610 million yuan from January to May, up 50 percent year-on-year, according to statistics from relevant institutions. "According to the Suning platform, sales of dumbbells, hula hoops, and yoga mats increased by more than 300 percent over the same period of 2019," said Liu Fumin, director of the department of sports economics at the General Administration of Sport of China. Liu also voiced optimism for the future, adding: "The sports industry has been affected by the pandemic, but at the same time, the Chinese economy is still moving ahead, and the Chinese sports industry is still developing. "I'm sure that the sports industry will play a more important role in the Chinese economy in the future." Xinhua