CHALET FIRMS ACT TO ATTRACT SKIERS
7th June 2019 | Jane Peel, Chief Reporter
Last modified on December 19th, 2019
Crystal Ski is the latest to upgrade its catered chalet service for next winter as the cloud of Brexit continues to hang over the industry.
Is the ski chalet holiday in sharp decline?
We’ve asked it before and we’ll probably ask it again.
Brexit is having a huge impact, the market is changing as people want more flexible options, going DIY is getting easier, costs are rising for the operators with changes to staff employment rules overseas and a poor and volatile exchange rate is having an impact.
Many are cutting the number of properties they offer – some are reducing the number of chalet beds by up to 20%.
Though numbers are going down service levels are going up.
Some of the main players in the business are looking ahead to winter 2019-20 and offering something a little different.
They’ll be hoping it will be enough to allay concerns about the continuing uncertainty over Britain’s relationship with the EU.
Bookings for trips after 29th March this year – the original date on which the UK was meant to leave the EU – fell off the proverbial cliff for many ski holiday companies last season.
It meant an extremely difficult end-of-season with empty beds and financial losses for some.
So what hope for next winter?
Crystal Ski says it’s listened to its customers and has revamped its offering.
It’s promising a ‘high quality offering across its entire chalet range’.
“All chalets will now offer a high-quality level of service including special treats with canapés, fizz, bottled wine and after-dinner chocolates all now included as standard on the menu,” Crystal Ski tells us.
“All chalet holidays will also include; seven days of breakfast, six days of afternoon tea and three-course evening meals, and for children early meals are provided.
“All chalets have free Wi-Fi and can cater for those with specific dietary requirements.”
Crystal is not the only ski tour operator to make changes.
In May we reported that Inghams, Ski Total and Esprit – all owned by Hotelplan UK – were reverting to providing their guests with full chalet-board on six rather five days.
Five-day catering was introduced last season in response to strict working time restrictions for seasonal staff.
It clearly wasn’t popular with guests and is being dropped for winter 2019-20.
Hotelplan UK has also just announced that it has bought the flexible short-breaks specialist, Flexiski.
There is more demand from skiers and snowboarders for flexible breaks and it will be interesting to see whether Hotelplan can exploit this side of the business.
It’s clear that some of the leading ski tour operators and travel agents are continuing to push the traditional chalet holiday for next winter.
Ski Solutions starts its latest newsletter with a question:
“A chalet holiday is the classic Alpine ski experience – perfect for families and groups alike who are looking for comfort and luxury without the more formal setting of a hotel. Spread out, relax and enjoy private gourmet chefs, wonderful private spa facilities and some of the best locations in resort.”
Last winter, we spent a week in a catered chalet in France with Ski Beat to see how the strict rules had affected the chalet holiday.
But there have also been worrying signs that even established firms are struggling.
Ski-Val, which had 24 chalets and had been operating for 43 years, ceased trading in March.
Though there was no official explanation of why Ski-Val collapsed, an employee later said an investor had pulled out as a result of Brexit.
Here at PlanetSKI we understand a well-known and long-established UK tour operator that has catered chalets at the core of its business is about to go into administration.
Crystal has cut back its programme from 45 to 30 properties.
It remains to be seen how the ski chalet holiday will fare next season and beyond.
Watch this space.
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