The ski market recorded one of its strongest periods of growth last winter, with seven per cent more UK skiers taking a ski holiday abroad than the previous winter, according to the Ski Industry Report 2006 from Crystal Ski.
More than 1.15m ski holidays were bought in 2005/06 – 40 per cent more than in the mid-80s, a period often regarded as the hey-day of British skiing.
The ski industry has seen regular growth every year this decade, but last winter’s peak confirms a stronger than expected trend and is the largest single-year growth since the winter of 2000/2001.
The continued rise in the number of independent travellers remains one factor behind this growth, with an eight per cent rise from 330,000 to 356,000.
Low-frills airlines increased the number of passengers they carried to ski destinations to 947,000, just above the levels of 2003/04. Regular scheduled airlines saw slight growth to 1,150.000, while those carried by tour operators rose from 400,000 to 430,000, mainly due to a late Easter adding extra capacity.
The rising popularity of America and Canada is clearly attracting skiers, up by 30% last winter. This is partly due to easier and cheaper accessibility, with the twice-weekly Crystal Denver charter playing a significant part.
France remains the most popular ski destination, taking 36.3% of UK skiers, up by 0.2%, while Austria maintained its share of the market from the previous winter of 20.1% as the UK’s second most popular ski destination. Switzerland grew (by 0.4%) as did Bulgaria, Slovenia, Serbia and Finland.
Some destinations were significant losers: Italy remains in third place at 14%, but suffered a massive fall from 15.7% the previous winter; and Andorra, in fourth place at 11.9%, fell from 13.7%.
Crystal Ski remains the biggest operator in the ski market and showed steady growth in passenger numbers, carrying 160,000 passengers in 2005/06, up from 148,000. Inghams also added passengers, up from 112,000 to 120,000.
The gulf between the top two and the next four has widened further. The mid-sized companies, with the exception of Neilson, which has leap-frogged First Choice into fourth place, all experienced below-trend growth.
There will be challenges for the ski industry this coming winter such as high fuel costs and a late Easter. But there are significant upsides: not least, the strength of the pound against the dollar promising further growth of the US and Canadian markets.
Crystal continues to innovate and widen customer choice as seen by the expansion of
Crystal Family – the widest choice of family-friendly holidays – and
Crystal the Finest – the greatest range of stylish hotels and ski chalets
and the introduction of more exotic destinations to entice the experienced travellers such as Lebanon and Japan.
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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