The overall ski market saw positive growth last winter after four seasons of decline according to findings from the Crystal Ski Industry Report 2013.
Tour operators and the independent travel sector experienced a 1% rise with packages including lift passes, equipment and catering proving popular with consumers seeking good value and financial certainty. However, the schools market encountered a further decline of 2% year-on-year.
The 2012/13 season finally turned the corner due to ideal snow conditions across European resorts, a ‘good calendar’ for Christmas and New Year departures, plus an early Easter holiday in March. The overall number of skiers increased by 5,000 year-on-year (1%) increasing the number travelling abroad to 899,700 in 2012/13, the first increase of numbers since the peak in 2007/08.
The top seven ski operators' market share remained stable at 84% of the total tour operator market. Crystal Ski strengthened its leadership last season with a 1% rise in market share to 34% helped by its value-for-money Ski Plus packages as well as inclusive and early booking offers. Thomson Ski saw an increase of about 3,000 skiers, while TUI Ski remains the market leader with just over 41% share, same as last year.
Hotelplan's increase to 26% (up 1%) of the total tour operator market is mainly due to Inghams rebuilding its portfolio following heavy reductions in preceding years. Esprit and Ski Total also increased their share marginally. Thomas Cook owned Neilson remains in third place with just under 12% and a 15.8% decline in sold holidays during the year.
The combined school and student market reduced by 2% to 115,700 while the independent travel sector experienced a marginal increase in volume of 1%, predominantly as a result of more flight options to the Alps, notably Geneva as well as Jet2 and easyJet into Grenoble airport. The report also found that France continues to be the most popular country with British skiers, taking 34.8% in the 2012/13 season, an increase in market share from 34.6% due to improved self-catering accommodation and ‘added value’ offers.
Simon Cross, managing director of Crystal Ski, said: “As anticipated, last year the decline in the ski market has now bottomed out and we are starting to see signs of recovery and growth.
"With initiatives from Snowsport England, the indoor ski centres in the UK, our own first time ski or board promotions and the efforts of resorts in Europe and beyond, there is a real focus on attracting new or lapsed skiers to the market. This focus, combined with the additional exposure that the Winter Olympics in Sochi will bring to the sport, should ensure that the growth that we experienced last season is the start of the recovery.”