The Harbin International Snow and Ice Festival

The Harbin International Snow and Ice Festival is the longest-running ice and snow festival in the world. It only has the opening ceremony-January 5th each year, without a closing ceremony. It was originally set for a month. The festival has started at the end of the previous year, Until the end of February ice and snow activities, the period includes the New Year, the Lunar New Year, the Lantern Festival and the ski festival four important festivals.


Harbin’s Ice Lantern began in the early 1960s and was developed based on traditional folk art. It is based on garden art, using architectural and sculptural art as its expression technique, and uses electric light as a light source to produce various ice scenes. There were ice and snow worlds in Harbin before 1999, but at that time the city government was not sponsoring them. It was an unofficial folk event. Now there is also an ice lantern garden party in Zhaolin Park every year, Snow and Snow Disney 2009 (the world’s first snow and ice Disneyland). In 2014, there were a total of 13 snow theme squares, 9 streets, and 17 sightseeing points were constructed, and 39 snow landscape was highlighted, which have become an important carrier of cultural landscape in Harbin. (Huang, 2018, p.371).

Arts and Entertainments

Everything was made from ice and snow in the parks: sculptures came with pure color and unique texture with thorough carving techniques, shaping the artistic image of every kind of unpredictable change. These sculptures were also self-luminous, containing the changing light systems, creating a crystal palace-like environment, providing a wonderful visual experience. Covered by snow and colorful lighting, trees are highlighted as well. Some ice buildings even served functionally such as restaurants, entertainment venues, offering food and recreational activities to visitors. Some blocks featured northern Chinese culture, like the northern food street and folk custom village (Huang, 2018, p.371).


Psychographic segmentation is to target a group of people with shared traits, beliefs, values, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles (Directive Group, 2020). Also, a culture defined as shared prospective of behavior and attitudes by a group of people (Martin & Nakayama, 2013). Thus, psychographic factors are relevant when segmenting cultural and heritage tourism specifically. Introduced by the Canadian Tourism Commission, the Explorer Quotient is a market segmentation tool based on psychographic, looking deeply at travelers’ values and world views (Destination Canada, 2015).

The ice festival is for those who are free

spirits, cultural explorers, and authentic experiencers because they are likely interested in: exhibits, architecture, sightseeing activities entertainment, amusement parks, festivals, events, and winter outdoor activities (Destination Canada, 2015). These are what the ice festival offer. The purposeful cultural tourists are also highly valued due to their motivation to exploring different cultural According to McKercher and Ducros, for the purposeful cultural tourists, cultural tourism is the primary goal to visit a destination and the individual has a deeper desire to experience (Routledge, 2002, p.144).


Three primary stakeholders are government, artists, and vendors. After 2001, the annual number of visitors and revenue has increased every year, and the development of ice-snow tourism has carried significant financial benefits to Heilongjiang Province (Ma & Cao, 2019, p.131). Thus, the government, artists, and vendors are all benefit from the festival. Due to the formal institution in China, the government has high influence over the festival. It was financially invested by the government. However, the government should consistently and efficiently gather the information to set up the framework and update the information regularly to make strategy plans, predict industry trends (Sun, 2015, p.58).

The artist is also highly influenced on the events because their work represents their talent. Since the 1980s, ice engraving has been popularized through competitions, developing knowledge, skills, and their successors (Cai & Zhao, 2012, p.72). Vendors are important as well. At the very beginning, only the Madiera Hotel hosted the ice and snow world in Zhaolin Park. After the co-sponsorship of the Madiera Hotel and the city government, the location of the Ice and Snow World was changed from Zhaolin Park to Jiangxi Jiangxin (the first session), Stalin Park + Jiangxi Beach (the second session), and the present Sun Island West of Song Bei Avenue.

Secondary stakeholders are citizens, ice-snow tourism-related business entrepreneurs. Tourism Cultural Industry have built the Heilongjiang’s reputation internationally, promoted the development of Heilongjiang province (Cai & Zhao, 2012, p.73). As the increasing number of visitors, local food and accommodation businesses benefit from the events. The informal institution (norms about snow activities) is also important. Before the establishment of the Ice and Snow Festival in Harbin, folks already had customs and entertainment activities about ice and snow. For example, ice lanterns began in the 1960s. Skating lessons are one of the winter courses for elementary and middle schools, and there are hobbies for self-development organizations such as winter swimming.


• Length of snow season. Due to its northern location and long winter, Harbin ice and snow tourism allows people (southerners like Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Guangdong) who have not seen snow.

• Great international reputation. NHK, CNN, and Discovery have also come to the Ice and Snow Festival opening ceremony. Discovery introduces Harbin’s “Ice City-Harbin” in a single episode in the series “Lost in China”.


• Imbalance structure. 98% of the total number of visitors are domestic; 77% of international visitors are from Russia (Sun, 2015, p.55).

• Seasonality. Ice and snow tourism only happen in winter, but it is not the peak season for traveling, so the market demand is limited (Sun, 2015, p.56).

• Defects of the legal system. There is no complete legal provision to determine security incidents attribution of responsibility or failed to protect the intangible culture, which are opportunisms seeking, leading to the government, state losses (Cai & Zhao, 2012, p.73).

• Limited financing resource. Stakeholders should finance flexibly, encouraging diverse non-state-owned economic entities and foreign capital into the industry (Cai & Zhao, 2012, p.74).


• Development of the Chinese economy. As China’s gross domestic product increases, people have more disposable income (Sun, 2015, p.56).

• Shifts of local industries. Resource-savings and environment-friendly industries are futures trends (Sun, 2015, p.57).


• International direct competitors such as ski hills in Europe and North America.

• Indirect competitors like tropical destinations.


From the institution-base view, the different legal systems (formal) and language (culture, informal) will create uncertainty for foreigners. However, from a resources-base view, it is a good idea to optimize recourses and capabilities to offset this uncertainty (Peng, 2017, p.325). Thus, the development of infrastructures and superstructure to increase accessibility and capability are essential at this moment. Besides formal and informal institutions, personal perspective is one of the three pillars. Keep marketing the festival as an enjoyable event to trigger pull factors rooted in the induvial to catch visitors around the goal.