The ski market fell by 11% across all sectors last season reflecting the uncertain economic situation and a reduction in capacity by tour operators.The fall follows last year’s decline of just over 13.3% and reduces the number of skiers travelling abroad from more than 1.06m in 2008/09 to just under 1m in 2009/10. The drop in numbers is in line with industry expectations as the ski industry reduced capacity for 2009/10. The capacity reduction followed the fall in demand for holidays the previous season, which had left many unsold beds in the ski resorts. The schools market also experienced a reduction in volume for the first time since 1999/2000 with a fall of 9%, attributed largely to the economic climate.
The independent travel sector shrunk by 13% to 285,000 skiers with some low cost carriers reducing their flight capacity to ski destinations, passengers taking fewer second holidays or switching to cheaper all-inclusive packages. The tour operator sector also saw the number decreasing by 10% to 534,600 skiers, predominantly as a result of planned capacity reductions leading to fewer holidays on sale and partly due to fewer multiple trips and fewer new skiers.
Large-scale operators have re-gained some of the ground lost to DIY travellers as they used their buying-power to get lower prices and have passed these onto consumers as attractive packages. The top seven operators’ market share represents just over 84% of the total tour operator market. Crystal Ski strengthened its market leadership last season to 28% despite significant reduction in chalet beds.
First Choice and Thomson see market shares reduced as a result of aggressive capacity reductions, however, TUI Ski remains clear market leader with 37% share. Hotelplan with Inghams grows following the acquisition of Ski Esprit and Ski Total. Thomas Cook with Neilson is in third place.
MEanwhile, France continues to be the most popular country despite seeing the largest decline in UK visitor numbers of any destination losing almost 4% share last season.
The 2010/11 season undoubtedly poses again challenges for an industry that is impacted by the effects of the recession. However, the strengthening sterling, the relatively gentle chancellor’s budget and resorts working harder to attract business are all positive signs for ski holiday companies. The Crystal Ski Industry Report finds strong evidence of ski companies increasing the numbers of properties for next winter leading to more holidays on offer. It predicts that next season skiers will continue to be price-sensitive and inclusive tour operator packages will shine due to better value holidays, outstanding service and security.
The operator’s managing director, Mathew Prior, said: “The ski industry has coped well with the challenges posed by the reduction in numbers during Winter 2009/10, with most organisations correctly anticipating the fall and scaling down capacity. We predict that 2010/11 will be a turning point and firmly believe that growth will return to the market.
“However, conditions will remain tough and only those able to keep inspiring customers with new offers, create good value and compelling holidays, will see the benefit."