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State of the Market Survey – The Mountain Trade Network
With the UK ski industry and especially travel companies, being hit incredibly hard due to the Covid-19 pandemic, is there light at the end of the tunnel for tour operators and agents when things finally start to open up again?
A recent survey conducted by the Mountain Trade Network of skiers and snowboarders has revealed that despite the global pandemic and the restrictions on travel during the winter season of 2021, the demand to book holidays once things open up is very high, even though most think prices will go up.
Even for the remainder of this winter season (until mid-April in most cases), 50% of skiers say if it’s possible to go, then they will. Although the vast majority believe this won’t actually happen.
Looking ahead to the 2021-22 winter, 96% of survey respondents said they intend to book a ski holiday, although around half will hold off and book within 3 months of travelling – that’s a lot more than would normally leave it that late.
Perhaps even more importantly, 80% of skiers said they expect it to be safe to ski in the 2021-22 winter season, which considering some of the negative coverage ski resorts had at the end of the 2020 winter, is a sign of confidence from consumers who have seen huge efforts from ski resorts over the past year in creating a Covid safe environment.
One emerging trend appears to be the demand for longer trips, with 20% of skiers saying they will go for 14 nights, rather than one week. Another trend is the rise of the self-drive option, which has gone from 10% pre-Covid to over 30% saying they intend to drive next winter. This could favour the most popular destination for British skiers, France, with 63% saying they plan to holiday in the country, although 19% say Switzerland is their number one choice. A growth of around 10% in market share.
But for skiers that dare to dream (they were asked what their dream destination would be if money was no object), the long haul destinations of Canada, Japan and USA remain top of the list.
Managing Director of The Mountain Trade Network, James Gambrill, said: “It’s been an incredibly difficult year for the winter sports industry and most operators were hoping this season would go-ahead. It hasn’t, but what’s encouraging is to see how many skiers are keen to get back on the slopes again once it’s possible to do so. We know there will be big changes ahead and après ski won’t be the same again for a while, but it’s generally accepted that the actual activity of skiing itself, being outdoors, is relatively safe”.
Summary of the findings:
- 50% of UK skiers still want to go if they can this winter (March and April 2021) and don’t mind where they go or what kind of accommodation they stay in. But most of them realise this probably won’t be possible.
- 96% intend to book for 2021/22, but big decrease in booking 6 months or more out.
- Short breaks likely to be less popular but longer stays conversely more popular with 20% saying they will go for 14 night ski holidays.
- Big shift from flying to self-drive with almost a third planning to drive compared to 10% pre-Covid.
- Skiers want the certainty of flexible bookings conditions, refund guarantee and insurance for 2021/22. This in turn could see a shift to more TO bookings and less independent/self-packaging in the short term.
- Long haul destinations Canada, Japan and USA remain top of the dreams list. Canada especially looks popular for 2021/22.
- Busy slopes now a top 3 consideration for most skiers when choosing a resort. Off-piste options also increasing in importance.
- 80% of skiers expect it to be safe to ski in 2021/22.
- Skiers expect prices to rise, but doesn’t seem to be dampening demand as skiers want to catch up on missed trips.