Having fun on an ice rink appeals to people of all ages, all over the world. Skaters in Europe and even in Kenya, the Midde East, the US and Canada have come to appreciate the mobile ice rinks of Ice-World International. The ice rink specialist has taken a major next step: during the Chinese Newyear season the first mobile ice rink was put up in China.
The city of Shangqiu, blessed with a mild winter climate, is not a place where you would expect people skating on ice. “That is the beauty of this concept. We can put ice-rinks anywhere, even in warmer climates. It is an exotic treat and people love it. And as we now know, also Chinese families in China”, says Heiko Conze, Ice-World International’s Director Sales and Marketing.
Ice-World is in the business of supplying mobile ice rinks since 1992. The Dutch company, that is also known for having built numerous temporary 400-metres speed skating tracks and even a 5 kilometre permanent track, is quite successful in a great number of countries around the globe. Introducing the mobile ice rink concept in China was a step it took with the consultants of Club China member China Inroads. “The business case of putting up an ice rink of 40 metres long and 25 metres wide in China is no different from anywhere else in the world”, Heiko explains. “Putting it up for a few weeks in a city centre or even inside a shopping mall can attract thousands of skating lovers – or even inactive viewers, enjoying the festive atmosphere. Retail businesses can have the mobile rink put up to attract crowds and boost sales.”
The alternative, of which the rink in Shangqiu is a great example, is having the attraction generating its own money in a couple of week’s time. “Our partner Perfect Space Time, an investment company, is managing the attraction in a park area and charges an entrance fee and skate rental.” According to Conze, it may be worthwhile introducing the European concept of putting up a skating rink as a social project, subsidised by local government and managed by volunteers.
It took a while for Ice-World and its consultants to select the right partner. “The partner covers the commercial aspect, we deliver the ice rink itself. It took several visits and lengthy talks to get down to business. Building a relationship takes time.” Ice-World has started a WFOE in Beijing and is supported by China Inroads on practical and organisational issues.
Permissions and licences
Conze and his three local staff learned a lot about shipping ice rinks to the location (“there is no airport nearby and had the rink that was manufactured in Europe trucked over immense distances”), and about local permissions and licences. Despite last-minute changes and misunderstandings, the ice rink was open for business on time. “It is wonderful to see Chinese families enjoying themselves on and off the rink”, says Conze, who was happy to witness this first success.
Conze does not worry much about competition. “We are in this business since 1992 and know how to make a mobile ice rink profitable, even in China. We have a clear lead in that area. We offer our partner our extensive expertise on how to make money with these rinks, for example by offering better food and beverage facilities and even by arranging temporary rest room facilities. There is a lot of fine-tuning to be done. This was our first step in the China’s mobile ice rink arena and we hope to build our business on this.”