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Those who had hoped that winter 2011-12 might see a return to growth, just as they had hoped 2010-11 might, will be disappointed by the Crystal Ski Industry Report 2012, which found that the market contracted once again, for the fourth successive year.
The continuing decline in bookings is clearly not good news, although some may take consolation in the fact that the 1.8% fall is the smallest yet, after last year’s 5% and the double-digit drop immediately after the economic crash.
Faced with a double-dip recession at home and until the start of December, media reports of ‘no snow in the Alps’ and a continuing strong Dollar and Euro, the overall number of skiers declined 16,200 year on year (1.8%). It reduces the number of skiers travelling abroad to 894,700 in 2011/12 (down more than a quarter from 1,227,000 at the peak in 2007/8).
Most concerning, the schools and student market showed the biggest fall (by 4.1% to 117,700, down from 122,700) mainly due to the economy as families struggle to pay for their child’s first ski experience on a school trip – which has been attributed as being the biggest single source of new skiers according to new YouGov research, commissioned by TUI Travel PLC.
Tour operators increased their share of the ski market for the third consecutive year last season, say Crystal. Packages including lift passes, equipment and catering proved popular with consumers seeking good value and financial certainty. The top eight ski operators' market share increased to 86% (up 1%) of the total tour operator market.
According to Crystal Ski, the company strengthened its market leadership last season by 1% to 33% due to its (nearly) all inclusive Ski Plus packages. Hotelplan's 3.7% reduction is mainly due to continued consolidation following the merger of Inghams with Ski Esprit and Ski Total. Thomas Cook owned Neilson remains in third place with a 6% decline in skiers.
The independent travel sector also experienced a reduction in volume for the fourth consecutive year with a decline of 1.2%, predominantly as a result of the continuing increase in flight and ski carriage costs.
France continues to be the most popular country with British skiers, accounting for 34.6% in the 2011/12 season. This shows an increase in market share for the first time in three years (up from 32.5%) and is due to the higher number of half board options and all inclusive packages available.
Austria's market share rose to 27.9% from 26.7% due to the phenomenal snowfall early in the season. Italy's share increased from 14.1% to 15.4% and Andorra rose marginally to 6.5%. This is the country’s third year of growth, despite poor snow early in the season. Skiers are enticed by the good quality hotels, combined with inexpensive holiday prices.
Switzerland's drop in share to 4.9% (from 6%) is due to the unfavourable exchange rate and the continued struggle against the perception of a high cost holiday destination.
North America's 4.5% share has dropped slightly as tour operators continue to adjust to the reduction in some flying routes by airlines. Bulgaria also saw a fall to 2.7% as did the smaller countries’ sector (to 4.6%).
Simon Cross, Managing Director Crystal Ski, said, "The ski market has been resilient despite challenging market conditions. Tour operators regained a marginal share of the overall market due to their ability to produce exceptionally good value ski holiday packages.
To view the full report visit http://mag.digitalpc.co.uk/fvx/crystal/sir2012/