Skiers buck poor snow season with three percent rise – Crystal Ski Industry Report 2007

Download: 2007 Crystal Ski Industry Report

In 2006/7 the total ski market grew by 3% across all sectors despite challenging snow conditions in Europe. It was the sixth successive year of growth during which the total number of skiers travelling abroad rose from 921,000 to 1.19m, showing that Britain’s love-affair with skiing is healthier than ever. Most encouragingly the schools market rose by 2.3%.

France continues to be the most popular country with 37.1% share reflecting the enduring appeal of chalet and club hotel holidays. A difficult start to the season and a late Easter also encouraged skiers to go high, favouring France. Austria, generally perceived as low-lying, lost one percentage point, but Switzerland, which also benefits from high resorts, continued to edge up.

North America, surprisingly given a season of positive snow reports in sharp contrast to Europe’s, only rose by 0.1%. This reflects capacity constraints in flights to North America and beds in popular resorts.

Bulgaria’s growth has stalled, Italy’s small shortfall was perhaps caused by an extended hangover from the Winter Olympics and Andorra suffered both from poor snow and its continuing attempt to reposition itself from a budget to a quality destination. The ‘others’ sector rose by 1.2%, reflecting growth in Slovenia, Serbia and Finland.

Overall growth has slowed, which we interpret as a blip largely attributable to last season’s European snow records, rather than a fundamental change to the established growth pattern.

In 2006/7 the tour operator sector grew by 1.8%, but the top six operators saw their market share slip 3 points to 74%. Crystal and Inghams were both flat season-on-season, despite having predicted growth at this point last year. Thomson and First Choice lost volume, suggesting preference for the specialist operators. Neilson continued to show steady, if unspectacular, growth and, although the ‘for sale’ sign has come down, it has exited the schools market.

Short-haul flight capacity rose by 6% season-on-season: the no frills carriers were up 18%; whilst the combination of vertically integrated and independent airlines fell by 2%.

The challenges for the 2007/8 winter are the lack of confidence in snow conditions, high fuel costs and the possible impact of ongoing airport security concerns.

The upsides for 2007/08 are a strong pound, especially against the dollar, continued strength in the North America market, an early Easter and a solid start to the season’s sales.

The Crystal Ski Industry Report also discusses two forward-looking issues:

1. no frills flying – the death of tour operators ?
2. global warming – the death of skiing?

The two main no frills carriers showed solid growth in capacity, rising 7% (Easyjet) and 13% (Ryanair). However their load factors were reported to be softening and the significant growth came from new and smaller players in the ski market. Traditionally, they have struggled to establish a foothold outside of Geneva.

Tour operators however remain protected against death by no frills by continuing to provide desirable accommodation in resorts and through product development and innovation. The greatest growth in demand is occurring in more customised product segments including family skiing (Crystal Family), ski weekends/short breaks and luxury accommodation (Crystal Finest).

The OECD report 2006 into global warming estimates that 75% of glaciers will melt in the next 45 years. Crystal recognises that this is a serious issue for us all and has ‘carbon neutralised’ its offices in Kingston and Harlow since 2003, the first major tour operator to do so.

Crystal was also the first major operator to offer customers the ability to offset their carbon emissions and last year changed the emphasis by asking passengers to opt-out, rather than opt-in to carbon offset, leading to a jump in voluntary offset bookings to 13,000 passengers, 7% of the total.

Crystal supports the initiative to introduce carbon offsetting industry standards and pledges to continue to pioneer new initiatives towards the goal of reducing global warming.

The ski and snowboard overview amalgamates information from tour operators’ own statistics, AC Nielson’s TravelTrack market research, CAA published statistics, tourist office figures and travel agency feedback.

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