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Outdoor sports in Ningbo blooms
2018-10-15Text Size: A A A

Rich outdoor resources promoting outdoor sports industry

Ningbo has for a long time placed great importance on the development of the outdoor sports industry. Based on its rich outdoor resources, the city has made active efforts to promote the integration of physical fitness, outdoor sports and leisure tourism. So far, a large number of infrastructure facilities have been completed, including mountaineering trails, cycling paths and camping sites. There are also various kinds of sports complexes, like sports parks and sports-featured towns.

Such events as the mountain expedition, hiking, drifting and rock climbing have stimulated the potential and vitality of the outdoor sports industry and other related industries as well as satisfying the people’s needs for outdoor sports. A group of outdoor sports enterprises have emerged as the leaders of the industry.

Constraints in developing outdoor sports

Despite the fast development of the outdoor sports industry, there are still some constraints for its further growth. The major difficulties are as follows.

Firstly, the management control is not clear enough. As the outdoor sports involve a variety of forms, including camping, hiking, mountaineering, canyon crossing, surviving in the wilds, cave exploration, jungle adventure, natural waters exploration and air adventure, they may have some overlapping in functions with such departments as planning, construction, tourism and security supervision. So the management control is not very clear in term of the industrial planning, infrastructure construction and supporting services.

There is a great lack of professional training. The inadequate professional training for outdoor sports leads to the uneven qualities of the sports participants. Except for a few people who have received the professional training from the Chinese Mountaineering Association, the majority of the outdoor club members and outdoor sports amateurs take part in the outdoor sports out of interest without any related training, thus many of them lack the basic outdoor sports skills. In recent years, the Nature Outdoor Sports Club has launched the public welfare program for training group leaders for outdoor sports. Since 2016, over 700 people have received training from the program. However, it is far from enough compared with the large population of the outdoor sports participants. According to the statistics for the outdoor sports in China, released at the National Development Conference for Outdoor Sports Industry, 67% of the outdoor sports participants have never received any related training.

People’s security awareness is inadequate. In recent years, as more people are involved in outdoor sports, there are more reports about sport accidents, and even deaths. The big data for the outdoor sports in China show that 89% of the outdoor sports participants are under no insurance. According to some experts in the field, it is the similar case in Ningbo.

The industry is in need of more width and depth. Most of the outdoor sports businesses are small in scale, and without adequate capital and technologies for industrial development, the industry fails to achieve a high profit margin currently.

Bright outlook for outdoor sports industry

As an emerging industry, the outdoor sports industry has a promising prospect.

Firstly, the industry is in line with the new consumption trend. In 2016, the General Office of the State Council issued the “guidance for accelerating the fitness and leisure industry” and several documents on the industrial planning of outdoor sports, which identifies the new development pattern for winter sports, mountain outdoor sports, water sports and aviation sports, marking the start of the new era for China’s outdoor sports industry. Then on September 20, 2018, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council issued the “opinions on promoting the consumption system and stimulating citizens’ consumption potential”, proposing that the country will “support the mass development of passenger liners, yachts, self-driving and general aviation, actively cultivate the new business patterns for sports consumption in great need, encourage social force to hold high-level international or domestic sports events, actively develop local and private independent sports brands and develop professional league games.” In his keynote speech at the National Development Conference for Outdoor Sports Industry, Professor Tan Jianxiang from South China Normal University said that the current consumption concept of the people has become the pursuit of life quality rather than the satisfaction of material demands, and the consumption means has upgraded from mere buying to more involving and interactive consumption. The outdoor sports industry is in line with people’s new consumption demands, therefore it is bound to attract enormous consumption potential.

Meanwhile, the population of people involved in outdoor sports has witnessed dramatic increase. According to the Director of the Development Department of China Mountaineering Association, in 2017, about 150 million people are involved in outdoor sports, including 50 million or so frequent participants. Estimated according to the current population and consumption situation of the industry, by 2020, the total output value of the outdoor sports industry will reach 1.5 trillion yuan, among which that of the mountain outdoor sports will reach 400 million yuan. At the development conference, the Deputy-director of the Economic Department of the General Administration of Sports said that in the first half of 2018, the annual sports or fitness consumption volume per person in China grew by 39.3%, higher than that of hotel accommodation (37.8), education (11.2) and sanitation (13.8). According to Professor Tan, in 2017, about 1,000 marathon races were held in China, attracting over five million runners. In recent years, the population of outdoor sports participants in Ningbo has also seen rapid increase, and the number has reached one million so far. According to the big data issued by Alipay, the purchases for outdoor sports products increased by 21% in 2017 over the previous year.

In addition, development of the outdoor sports industry will promote the regional economic development and improvement of people’s livelihood. The outdoor leisure sports can satisfy people’s pursuit for a better life,and the sports industry has become an effective tool for stimulating consumption, expanding domestic demand and promoting regional economic growth.

Coordination between government and enterprises

Then with such a large market share for outdoor sports, how can the government provide a larger platform? And how can the enterprises concerned play their own roles faced with the fierce competition? The experts shared their ideas at the National Development Conference for Outdoor Sports Industry held in Ningbo.

Government departments should take responsibilities but not interfere too much. Based on the concept of “enterprises being the core power for developing sports industry, the related departments should build the good atmosphere for the cultivation of the market subjects rather than take the businesses’ job into their hands. The government departments are involved in all the 1,000 marathon race, and this goes against the sustainable development of the marathon industry. The government departments should provide services for the outdoor sports industry and introduce the negative list system. They can also help to strengthen the public-welfare training for the outdoor sports skills. By taking advantage of the construction of the national comprehensive pilot zone for insurance, Ningbo should consolidate its cooperation with the insurance agencies and explore the feasibility of the public insurance system for outdoor sports.

Industrial policies should be implemented. The policies by the government departments should be to the point and practical. To improve the service efficiency, the procedure of the approval should be simplified. By establishing the joint conference system of such fields as sports, tourism, culture, security supervision, public security, planning, insurance and health care, the government can coordinate and solve the problems encountered in the promotion of the outdoor sports industry, and thus realize the integrated development of the industrial policies in sports, tourism, health care and care for the elderly.

To promote intelligent development. As outdoor sports are usually carried out in the mountain areas or in the wild, they count much on the equipment or facilities for communications, security and self-rescue. Then there is no doubt the sports industry is sure to go through a path of intelligent development. By means of the information technology, the government can actively develop the customized “sports + tourism” services, and thus enables the outdoor sports products to satisfy the individualized demands.

To connect the “last mile”. Many of the outdoor sports bases in Ningbo or even in China are disused soon upon completion. The bases are usually located in the countryside with backward infrastructure. However, businesses have paid little attention to the supporting infrastructure construction, including traffic, security, catering, accommodation and software service. According to some experts, China should learn from the outdoor bases in the US, where they may guide the tourists to cook by themselves and dispose the outdoor garbage besides providing the necessary infrastructure facilities.

Consumers are the core of consumption. Besides the normal demands of the local consumers, the outdoor sports programs should also take into consideration the seasonal consumers from other places. The operators of the outdoor sports should conduct detailed surveys on the situations and types of the consumers, so as to meet the different demands of different consumer groups.

To emphasize features and build brands. To be competitive, the outdoor sports products should have their own features. They with careful design, the features will be transferred as the core competitiveness of the products. For example, the New York Marathon race is one of the top six marathon races in the world,, with the maximum number of runners exceeding 100,000. To publicize the event in November each year, the local government will organize over 50 activities, giving full play to the influence of the event. This is a good example to follow for the outdoor sports organizers.

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