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UK ski market falls again
Tuesday September 9, 2014 - Email this article to a friend

Last winter the number of British people taking a ski holiday fell by 3.6%. That is according to the Crystal Ski Industry report that has just been published. There had been hopes of a rise. PlanetSKI reports.

The report says that the number of British people going skiing or snowboarding fell from 900,000 in 2012/13 to 867,700 in 2013/14.

That is a fall of 33,000 people.

The number of people travelling independently saw the biggest reduction; a drop of 5.8% from 269,000 to 253,400.

The total of people using a tour operator went down from 500,500; a fall of 2.8%.

Despite the new laws in the UK that prevents parents taking children out of school during term-time, and pressures on the family budget, the schools market saw a smaller fall.

It went down 1.6% to 113,800.

Many in the UK snowsports industry had been predicting a rise and the figures just released will come as a surprise and disappointment to some.  

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Here at PlanetSKI we canvassed opinion in advance of the report from tour operators and industry experts and most predicted a rise of between 2% and 4%; see here for our preview story.

After publication one of the figures said the report does not examine the role of the specialist operators.

"I'm not convinced this captures the growth which some of the niche ski specialists have found," said Craig Burton from Ski Solutions as he assessed the figures.

Earlier this week the sister companies Inghams, Ski Total and Esprit Ski released their figures for last winter. They claimed a rise of +4%.

The three companies do not share their figures so they are not part of the Crystal Report.

The previous Crystal Report from 2013 showed a small rise of 1% on the year before and there had been hopes the steady decline had ended and the market had reached the bottom. 

It had fallen from a high of more than 1.2m in 2007/08.

Last season though it was down.

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Crystal uses a variety of sources for its reports and gathers information from other tour operators, the CAA, tourist office statistics, lift companies and uses travel agency data.

It puts the blame on a late Easter.

"The fall is solely down to the late Easter and we expected a fall. Next season we remain optimistic," said the President of Crystal Ski Holidays, Simon Cross, as he presented the report.

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Here at PlanetSKI we also believe the snow had an impact.

In parts of the southern Alps and Italy there were good levels of snow last winter. In places Italy had the best snow in generations.

However the northern Alps, where the main French resorts are, had lower than average snowfall while Austria had a poor winter.

This will have taken its toll.

Also the severe flooding in the UK in January harmed the market as people worried about whether their home would flood, rather than which resort to take a ski holiday to.

There was some good news in the growing levels of interest in snowsports during the Sochi Winter Olympics.

Here at PlanetSKI we reported last February on the boom indoors as we went to the Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead.

Last weekend we went back and witnessed some further growth.

However out in the Alps things are not looking so rosy.

Crystal is putting a brave face on and finding the positives.

"While winter 13/14 presented challenges for the ski industry, we are optimistic about the outlook," said the Crystal Ski Holidays managing director, Tamsin Todd.

"Britain's successes in the Olympics and Paralympics have renewed interest in snow sports among customers looking for fun and active holidays that they can enjoy with family and friends," she added.

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In terms of where the British skiers go then France remains the number one country despite the on-going rows over ski hosting that some thought might drive people away.

France saw a decline of 1.3% but it remains on top with a 33.5% share of UK holidaymakers last season.

Austria had a 0.2% loss and took 28% of the UK market.

"I am delighted to see Austria holding its own and performing well despite the difficult snow conditions.  It's a good result for us ," said Herwig Kolser from the Austrian National Tourist Office.

"We hope to built on this with new initiatives next winter to attract lapsed skiers and new ones," he added.

Interestingly Switzerland had a slight resurgence with a 1% increase. 

It had 6.5% of the UK market last winter.

Some thought it would be down due to the poor exchange rate.

The rise was welcomed by the Swiss Tourist Office, but it has severe worries for next winter as the mass-market Swiss chalet holiday has been axed by many British operators due to a change in employment laws; see here for an earlier PlanetSKI story on the issue.

In the Crystal Ski Industry Report Andorra and Italy each increased market share by 0.2% whereas Bulgaria and USA/Canada lost 0.2% market share each.

The small countries sector stayed stable at 2% market share with Norway showing some growth; see here for a PlanetSKI feature when we went to Norway with Crystal in 2013.

"It is good to see growing interest in Norway and we look forward to further guests next winter," said the Director of International Sales and Marketing for Norway, Trevor de Villiers.

Others have reacted to the decline.

"The Crystal report is an interesting barometer on the industry, it inevitably does not reflect all operators. Skiweekends has outperformed the report every year with 8% growth last winter, however this was less than the year before so reflects a tougher market," said Dan Fox the managing director of Skiweekends to PlanetSKI.

"The big operators fight over the same people, the specialists offer some fantastic alternatives with genuine value and individual service, so perhaps this is why many have outperformed the big boys," he added.

We will be updating this story with further reaction and analysis so do check back later today for our coverage.

The report was much shorter than usual with less detailed information and the time spent on the Ski Industry Report during the 40-minute presentation was just over 5 minutes.  Much of the rest was taken up with details of the company's digital plans. 

The digital presentation took 28 minutes.

These include altering the role of the in-resort rep and changing the holiday experience for customers.

It is a significant development and we have reported on those changes in this related PlanetSKI story.

Going digitalGoing digital













Some of the specialist ski journalists present complained at the brevity of the Industry Report as normally there is more information; see here for last year's presentation.

The report itself was 8-pages long; last year it ran to 22-pages.

There has been some speculation that this might be the last such report from Crystal, however we have been assured that there will still be some type of industry report next year with comment and analysis on the state of the UK snowsports market.

If you wish to comment on the report and see further reaction then do take a look at the PlanetSKI facebook page. 

Feel free to like and share the story. If you do so then please let us know if you want a copy of the Crystal Ski Industry report and we can send one on.

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