Singapore-listed property developer KOP will invest $360 million to jointly develop an integrated indoor ski resort with Chinese state-owned enterprises in Shanghai.
Slated to open in 2022, the year Beijing hosts the Winter Olympics, the $1.2 billion project is set to tap the rising trend of Chinese consumers spending more on experiences such as travel and sports.
Wintastar Shanghai, as the pro-ject is called, will be the latest addition to a cluster of theme parks in the Pudong district, including Shanghai Disney Resort, Shanghai Haichang Ocean Park and Shanghai Planetarium.
"We hope to turn this area into something like Los Angeles or Orlando," said KOP Limited executive chairman Ong Chih Ching, referring to the two American cities with a concentration of theme parks that draw millions of domestic and international tourists each year.
"Our aim is not just to build a top-class resort for the Chinese market - this will be built to cater to international standards," Ms Ong said in her speech at the ground-breaking ceremony yesterday.
The 227,000 sq m project - the size of about 32 football fields - will be the world's largest indoor ski resort when completed. It is expected to create 4,000 jobs and attract 3.2 million visitors each year.
Estimated area of the project in sq m, equivalent to the size of about 32 football fields. Wintastar Shanghai is expected to create 4,000 jobs and attract 3.2 million visitors each year.
Number of visitors at China ski resorts in the 2017-2018 snow season, up 16 per cent from the previous season.
Estimated value of the winter sports industry in China. It is projected to grow to one trillion yuan by 2025.
Dubai conglomerate Majid Al Futtaim is expected to operate the ski park, making it its first venture into the Greater China market.
"We will bring with us more than 15 years of expertise, which has been proven at Ski Dubai," said Mr Mohammad El Etri, director of global snow operations and projects at Majid Al Futtaim. Ski Dubai is the first indoor ski and snow attraction in the Middle East, with about one million visitors annually.
He told The Straits Times: "We're also very committed to green energy. So this will not only be the biggest indoor ski resort, but it will also be the most energy-efficient one."
Besides having an alpine-themed 90,000 sq m ski and snow park, the resort will have a water park and four hotels, including rooms with ski-in and ski-out facilities.
Ms Ong expects the hot summer months to be peak season for the resort. While it cannot replace the experience of skiing in the mountains in winter, it aims to provide visitors with pre-and post-season training.
"We are about 11/2 hours away from the city centre. It is expensive to go to the mountains frequently, so we're an answer to the people's everyday needs," Ms Ong said.
China is enjoying a boom in winter sports, especially among the masses. According to a report released in May, ski resorts in China received 17.5 million visitors in the 2017-2018 snow season, up 16 per cent from the previous season.
The government aims to attract 300 million people to practise winter sports in the years leading up to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. It estimates that the winter sports industry, now worth nearly 400 billion yuan (S$80 billion), will hit one trillion yuan by 2025.
The ground-breaking ceremony was attended by Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information, and for Culture, Community and Youth, and Mr Chen Jie, executive deputy director of the Shanghai Lingang Administrative Committee.