To read the report, please click here.

Tour operators again increased their share of the ski market as the overall number of skiers fell by five percent across all sectors last season, the Crystal Ski Industry Report 2011 finds. The fall in the market is largely as a result of an exceptionally late Easter and follows two years of decline of 13.3% and 11% respectively. It reduces the number of skiers travelling abroad to 910,900 in 2010/11.

The combination of the extremely late Easter with some resorts unable to stay open until then, extra public holidays around the Royal Wedding encouraging a sunshine spring holiday and below average snowfall at the end of the season Alps created a ‘Perfect Storm’ for the ski industry. 

The independent travel sector showed the biggest fall (by 8.2% to 270,200 skiers, down from 294,300) predominantly as a result of the continuing increase in flight and ski carriage costs.

The schools market also experienced a reduction in volume for the second time since 1999/2000 with a fall of 3.7%, similarly affected by the Easter shift.

Despite the overall number of skiers declining by 16,600 year on year, the percentage of those travelling with tour operators has actually increased by just over one percent. The top seven operators’ market share represents 85% of the total tour operator market.

Crystal Ski strengthened its market leadership last season to 32%, up from 28% due to its attractive Ski Plus packages, and Thomson Ski also saw an increase of 2000 skiers. First Choice saw a fall in its market share from 22,000 to 10,000 as a result of capacity reductions. However, TUI Ski remains the clear market leader with 40% share, up from 37% last year.

Hotelplan’s 5.6% reduction is mainly due to Inghams cutting back on charter seats to Canada and some European destinations. Ski Esprit/Ski Total, part of Hotelplan, saw an increase of nearly 5%. Thomas Cook with Neilson remains in third place.

France continues to be the most popular country with British skiers accounting for 32.5% in the 2010/11 season. However, this is the third consecutive year of  fall in market share (down from 33.2%) predominantly due to the ongoing perception of high prices in resort.

Austria increased its market share to 26.7% from 25.6% and Italy’s remains level with that of last year at 14.1%. Andorra increased its market share to 6.4% from 6% which is attributed to the Andorran government’s arrangements to assist tour operators, combined with cheaper holiday prices.

Switzerland’s 6% share is relatively steady and North America’s 4.6% share has dropped slightly due to additional flight costs driven by fuel and Air Passenger Duty (APD). Bulgaria also saw a small increase to 4% due to the attraction of its low prices whilst the small countries sector shrunk by 0.4% reflecting erratic snow conditions.

The Crystal Ski Industry Report finds strong evidence that customers have stayed away due to financial constraints rather than falling out of love with the sport. The report predicts that skiers will continue to be price-sensitive next season, but the more favourable calendar combined with a hopefully more stable economic environment could lead to a “bottoming out” of the market.

Mathew Prior, Managing Director Specialist Holidays Group, home to the TUI Ski brands, said: “Over the last three seasons, tour operators have done what they do best: develop excellent relationships with airlines and overseas suppliers to deliver great value holidays for British skiers across each element of the holiday – flights, transfers, accommodation and ski packs. As the cost of independent travel increases, tour operators have regained share of the overall market. Only the most resolute DIY skier would omit to check the tour operator price for the equivalent holiday.

A recent TUI Ski survey highlights that 60% of our customers do not take package holidays for any trip other than skiing. These customers recognise that a winter sports holiday with a tour operator is the smarter option.”

The ski and snowboard overview amalgamates information from tour operators’ own statistics, CAA published statistics, tourist office figures and travel agency feedback. To read the report, please click here

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