NELSON – Selkirk College has formalized its relationship with AXIS Leisure Management Ltd, a leader in China’s on-the-verge ski resort industry, strengthening its role as a player in the vast opportunity existing in the changing country.
This Memorandum of Understanding confirms ongoing cooperation between Selkirk College Ski Resort Operations & Management (SROAM) Program and Axis, a Beijing group specializing in leisure resort project development from concept to completion founded by Justin Downes, a leader in the Canadian industry who is now working on developing the ski industry in China.
“It’s very encouraging to have a formal agreement signed with Axis and Selkirk College,” says Bob Falle, School Chair of Hospitality & Tourism. “Networking with Justin has been valuable for us as we make connections in the up-and-coming Chinese ski industry. It’s the fastest growing mountain resort industry in the world and the resorts are in need of training and ski industry expertise. We want to share what we know with the Chinese ski industry.”
Winter sports are emerging in China – rapidly – but they are still at the beginning stages of development. Selkirk College is collaborating with mountain resort industry to provide expertise and cooperate on programs and projects while securing opportunities for SROAM students, faculty and alumni. Falle’s first contact was made with Downes seven years ago and that year alumnus Doug Sharpe became the first student to start his lasting career in the mountain resort industry in China.
The number of ski resorts in China is growing exponentially from 50 in 2000 to 298 in 2010 and 568 in 2015 according to China Ski Industry White Book, a comprehensive data report published by Chinese industry.
China’s increasingly wealthy middle class is interested in winter sports such as skiing and with that comes vacationing in destination resorts featuring fine food, spa treatments and novelties like virtual reality ski simulators. Leisure time is new to people of China. “The previous generation worked six days a week and they didn’t have a concept of what leisure time was,” says Falle. “The north parts of China experience winter yet only now are people exploring winter sports like hockey or skiing.”
Last October, Falle travelled to China for the first ever World Winter Sports Expo in Beijing put on by the Chinese government. He went with Selkirk College’s Pat Bidart, Instructional Dean of Hospitality & Tourism. Downes encouraged his Canadian colleagues to set up booth at the expo assuring it was a must-attend event.
“The Chinese government has set a goal of getting 300 million more people involved in winter sports in the next five years leading up to the 2022 Winter Olympic Games being held in Beijing and nearby Zhangjiakou,” says Bidart. “While we were at the World Snow Sports Expo, we met with ski resort companies to find out what training they need. We also met with the Tourism Institute of Beijing Union University to explore offering our ski resort program at their ultra-modern state-of-the-art institute.”
This would be a boon for Selkirk College providing opportunities for both faculty and students, explains Bidart who worked in China, among other countries, establishing post-secondary programs in agriculture and business prior to joining Selkirk.
“It’s very exciting for us to be part of what’s happening there,” she says.