A chill in the air
Feb 1, 2019 (WiC 439)

China is going downhill fast – if you believe the people touting its skiing revolution.

According to research cited by China Daily, 21 million visits were made to ski resorts in China last year, up 14% on 2017. The same study said that 39 new ski resorts opened last year, with 742 winter sports venues in operation.

One of the new entrants hoping to further boost interest is top European trainer Ecole du Ski Francais, which has unveiled an academy in Beijing to bring the best Alpine tuition to eager novices.

The school is partnering with Club Med, the tourism and resorts group owned by Chinese conglomerate Fosun.

Gino Andreetta, CEO of Club Med China, noted of the move: “We decided to support the country’s plan to have 300 million people on the snow [by 2022]. We know in China only 20% of people will come back after trying skiing the first time. We think safety is a top concern, as well as experience, and that’s why we created this academy, with a very strong partner – ESF, one of the largest and oldest ski schools.”

China Daily points out that the country’s increasingly affluent ‘millennial families’ are “eager to embrace new experiences” and that skiing is one of the sports being promoted by the government as part of the build-up to the hosting of the Winter Olympics in 2022 (for more on the investment going into resorts and facilities for the Olympics, see WiC390).

Club Med has two ski resorts in the northeast of China in Heilongjiang and Jilin.

But further afield Finland has been trying to market itself to Chinese skiers by launching the China-Finland Year of Winter Sports campaign last month. To get more tourists onto Finnish slopes two new direct flights to Helsinki will soon go into service from Shandong’s Jinan (on Tibetan Airlines) and from Shanghai (via Juneyao Airlines).

Boarish behaviour
Jan 25, 2019 (WiC 438)

Most hikers in Hong Kong can tell that the population of wild boars is growing. In fact, the feral beasts have been extending their territory from the country parks into urban areas like Causeway Bay. Adult boars can weigh up to 200 kilogrammes, with a body length of up to two metres (in a widely viewed video clip last year, a huge one – soon nicknamed Godzilla – was filmed with his snout in an urban rubbish bin). There is a growing number of cases in which wild pigs foraging for food are straying into residential areas and dangerously confronting pedestrians.

Two years ago the government changed the orders of the teams it deployed to keep boar numbers down. Instead of hunting them a birth control scheme was introduced but it has been a challenge to catch the animals and inject them with contraceptives. The problem prompted an audacious question from a Hong Kong lawmaker during a legislative council meeting this month. “Will the government reintroduce the hunting team or use alternative methods such as introducing natural predators to Hong Kong?” asked Kenneth Lau, representing the rural constituency of Heung Yee Kuk.

Given that only large carnivores such as lions and tigers sit above boars in the food chain, Lau’s half-hearted remark provoked widespread mockery. It also prompted another suggestion from a columnist in the Apple Daily. The most obvious choice of natural predators, he proposed, was mainland tourists: the government should introduce safaris for them to hunt the boars and eat them afterwards.

Not that anyone in the government has taken either proposal seriously. Instead they are taking a more mundane approach, calling for the public, including mainland Chinese tourists, not to feed the animals. Denying the boars’ food, the government believes, is the most effective way in limiting their escalating population for the time being.

First class, at bargain rates
Jan 18, 2019 (WiC 437)

Turning left on a Cathay Pacific aircraft got considerably cheaper in recent weeks, as its online flight booking systems offered first class tickets at amazingly low prices. The glitch saw first-class tickets between Vietnam and New York sold at the beginning of this month for $675 rather than $16,000; and those from Hong Kong to New York for $1,450 (versus $31,000). Eagle-eyed bloggers alerted travellers to the bargains, pointing out there were also heavily discounted business-class fares too. Cathay’s management quickly responded, admitting to the mistake in a tweet and stating it would honour the purchases. It added that the multi-million Hong Kong dollar mistake was the result of human input error but it claimed a “lesson learnt” after making fixes.

However, as the South China Morning Post pointed out this week, the lesson may not have been learned very thoroughly as the same mistake seems to have been made yet again. This time it was on the route between Lisbon and Hong Kong where a first-class fare normally worth $16,000 was on sale online for $1,512. Once again the airline acknowledged the screw-up and said it would honour the fare: “for the very small number of passengers who have purchased these tickets” it looked forward to welcoming them into the first-class cabin.

Some analysts think Cathay management decided to swallow their losses to demonstrate goodwill after the airline angered customers last year over a data breach. The Hong Kong carrier was embarrassed to admit last October the hack had compromised 9.4 million passengers’ personal information.