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Wednesday January 10, 2018 - Email this article to a friend

The 2nd annual European Mountain Travel Summit is taking place in Crans-Montana. On the agenda is future of the industry. PlanetSKI reports. UPDATED


No gathering of the movers and shakers in the snowsports industry is complete without a party.

Last night we took the gondola up the mountain to Cry d'Er. 

The red carpet was rolled out.    

EMTS, Crans-MontanaEMTS, Crans-Montana

And inside the party began.

EMTS, Crans-MontanaEMTS, Crans-Montana

And the details? 

Lets just say what happens on tour stays on tour.  

And there was an after-party in town too.

This morning most of us turned up for the 08.30 start and were grateful for the signs in town showing us where to go.

   EMTS, Crans-MontanaEMTS, Crans-Montana

So, what's on the agenda today?
  • Attracting the younger generation.
  • Using innovation and friendly customer experience to grow business.
  • Innovative ski pass programmes.
  • Lunch.
At time of writing (09.02) most of us are just trying to stay awake. Wink

EMTS, Crans-MontanaEMTS, Crans-Montana


"We know mobile use is just going to grow and grow and grow," James Nathan, Crystal Ski. 

"We have so much data but we're not quite sure what to do with it," Nicholas Mayer, PriceWaterhouse Coopers.  

"As a destination we have abandoned our App. We concentrate on mobile, tablet and desktop," John Urdi, Mammoth Lakes Tourism. 

"2% of the world's population go skiing - that's 125 million people," Laurent Vanat.  

"Downhill mountain biking is the skiing of summer," Joseph Margreiter, Tirol Tourism.  

"Co-operation is better than competition," Joseph Margreiter, Tirol Tourism.  

"3D maps make life easier," Stefan Sieber, St Moritz.  

"We don't categorise Canada as an international market - it's domestic," Bob Stinchcomb, NewCo, USA.  

"Ski instructors to the Chinese and Japanese need to create time for pupils to take selfies," Clifford Bernstein, Niseko.

"We cannot become cheaper, but we can become better," Fabienne Huber, Mt Stanserhorn, Switzerland.

"75% of today's business models in tourism will be significantly changed in 5 years," Johannes Lippert, Skidata.

"You don't turn up at an airport to buy an airline ticket so why do you have to turn up to a lift pass office to get a lift ticket," Evan Reece, Liftopia. 

"We don't share those numbers publically so I can't go into specifics," Daniel Brauer, Vail Resorts, when asked awhat percentage of Epic Passes were sold online.

"International guests spend 20% more than domestic ones," Eric Bonnel, Val Thorens.

"The profit magins on ski holidays are very low, the big ones (tour operators) survive on pure volume," Gordon Ritter, Crystal Ski.

"In the French Alps 1 million beds are not rented...we want to create a community of second -home owners,"  Alexis Dussillol, Airbnb.

"You have to make a mobile product, not a web product," Reto Gurtner, Laax.

"Can anyone understand what the f**k he is on about?" Annon.


The world of buying a lift pass is changing as the North America model is being adopted in Europe.

"In 5 years time the lift pass cash desk will simply not exist," said Evan Reece the CEO of the US company Liftopia.  

Much purchasing in North America is all about selling a season lift pass to customers.  

This means money up front and it also leads to data capture, integrated marketing of other products (hotels, rentals, ski school), loyalty and more days spend on the slopes.  

They are then likely to visit a partner resort too.

The panel consisted of Daniel Brauer from Vail resorts, Bohus Hlavaty from Tatry in Slovakia, Even Reece from Liftopia and Urs Zurbriggen from Saas-Fee.  

The session was moderated by Johannes Lippert from Skidata.  

Ski pass panel

The company that has led the way is Vail Resorts with its Epic Pass.   It is a pass that allows people to ski at all the resorts owned or operated by Vail Resorts.

14 in all and it has partnerships with a number of European ski areas.

First some numbers.  
  • It was launched 10 years ago in 6 resorts and Vail Resort now offers it in 14.  
  • 40% of revenue comes before the first snow falls. 
  • The Epic Pass is bought from people in 50 US states & 100 countries worldwide. 
  • It makes skiing aspirational. 
"Our guests who buy an Epic Pass are more loyal, they spend more money in the resort, they share their experiences with their friends and the social media uses are becoming bigger and bigger," said Daniel Brauer. 

"We capture data and secure early commitment to our resorts".

The country that is looking closely at its models and using innovative lift passes and pricing is Switzerland.
And the resort that has put the cat among the pigeons in the Swiss Alps is Saas-Fee.

It has launched a truly innovative lift pass initiative.  

Last winter the resort offered 75,000 season tickets for 220CHF (£164).

It required all the tickets to be sold in a 5-week period - effectively it was crowd-funding.  

The cost of 220 CHF was the equivalent of a 3 day pass so was very attractive to local people. 

"We needed to bring Swiss people back to our resort after numbers fell and if we didn't do something we would loose even more," said Urs Zurbriggen from the lift company.

The results are interesting.  

Season pass sales went from 2,000 to 75,000 and the 150,000 skier days the resort had lost in the past decade was regained in one year.    

People came more often and then spend money in the resort - restaurants/bars, ski school, rentals and hotels.    

With the benefits seen by Vail Resorts and Saas-Fee many delegates from ski resorts  in the room were furiously scribbling notes.

I think it is fair to say major changes are afoot and some will be for next season.

Tatry in Slovakia is also at the forefront of these changes.

"30% of our skier days come from season passes and people are buying their freedom," said Bohus Hlavaty.

There is though a downside with the drive to sell season passes. 

The cost of a single day or weekend ticket has risen and is correspondingly more expensive.  

This puts off new skiers and that is not good for the future of the snowsports industry.

And how about us British skiers and snowboarders who usuall just take a week's holiday?

Time will tell.

Taking notes, EMTSTaking notes, EMTS

Next up was a look at data:

From the first kilometer to the last kilometer - how using big data, insights and consumer data can drive a winning business.

However I made the fatal mistake of looking up and out of the window.

Do not look out of the windowDo not look out of the window

I had a choice to update this blog or venture out to see the slopes.

I sat through the presentation, and it was absorbing, but to be honest my mind was elsewhere.

I am a skier after all, rather than a data analyst.
Crans-Montana, SwitzerlandCrans-Montana, Switzerland


Should I stay and update this blog about data-driven marketing with details of the awareness and journey of customer acquisition to customer satisfaction through data analysis.

Or should I make a swift exit from the hall without anyone noticing?

Now that my friends is what I call a 'no-brainer'.

It's a wrapIt's a wrap


Snowsports is under threat and faces numerous challenges.

There are the immediate ones posed by the economic situation and, despite the current weather in the Alps, climate change. 

In his opening remarks, the managing director of EMTS, Michael Pierson, made the point succinctly.  

"We represent mountain destinations and it is not just about skiing. We compete head on with others in the travel industry," he said. 
Michael Pearson, EMTSMichael Pierson, EMTS

The point was emphasised by Bruno Huggler, the director of Crans-Montana.

"Crans-Montana now sees 40% of its visitors coming in the summer months," said Bruno. 

The summit takes place over the next two days and sees 30 different speakers in 10 sessions. 

There are 150 delegates from Europe, North and South America and Asia.

It will be looking at many issues:
  • Attracting the younger generations to skiing.
  • How to turn cold beds into hot beds and the rise of Airbnb.
  • Innovative lift pass offers.
  • The use of data to drive sales and business.
  • Using technology to provide a better customer experience,
  • Creating mountain bike destinations in the summer.
  • Why resorts should think globally and act nationally.
The sessions are being run by a good friend of ours at PlanetSKI - Amin Momen from Momentum Ski.  

Amin Momen, EMTSAmin Momen, EMTS


And the first thing to catch the attention of PlanetSKI is 3D maps.    

The company 3D Reality Maps gave a short presentation and we glimpsed the future.  

This is a normal photo:  

St Moritz in 2DSt Moritz in 2D

And here is a 3D one:   

St Moritz in 3DSt Moritz in 3D


One ski resort already using them is St Moritz in Switzerland.   

"A topographic map does not really inspire you to visit a destination, but a 3D one might make you go," said the head of reservations and information for St Moritz, Stefan Siber.  

And in our opinion at PlanetSKI the real use is the videos. 

At EMTS 2018 there is also a strong UK contingent with senior executives from Ski Solutions, Crystal Ski, OTP Swiss Holidays and Inghams.     

The UK contingentThe UK contingent

One of the topics for debate was about branding ski areas and why some become better known that others.

Harvey Gahl, head of purchasing for Hotelplan that operates Inghams, Ski Total and Esprit Ski spoke to the delegates from the UK table.

He explained how the customer experience can be improved and the importance of suppliers working together.

His words drew applause from the audience.

Harvey Gahl, HotelplanHarvey Gahl, Hotelplan

Also up for debate around the table was the cost of a lift pass. 

In North America there is a range of prices according to the time in the season, but in Europe much less so.

"I find it amazing that lift passes are not more expensive in high season and are less in low season to attract more customers," said Craig Burton from Ski Solutions.

Switzerland is slightly different from the other alpine countries and there are a range of different lift pass prices for this season.

After EMTS I am going on a tour of some of the lesser-known resorts in the area that are all on the same lift pass.
At these sort of gatherings lunch plays a central role.

I looked forward to finding out what 'Beef, Grandma' style is.

Lunch awaitsLunch awaits

I have no idea what makes it 'grandma style' but I can report it was very tasty.

 Meat and gravyMeat and gravy


Could it be the future of ski resort accommodation? 

Kicking off the afternoon sessions as we all digested our lunch was Alexis Dussillol the ski markets manager for Airbnb, France.

Alexis Dussillol, EMTSAlexis Dussillol, EMTS


It started in San Francisco in 2008 and then expanded into other cities.   

There are now 4m homes on its books and 250m people have used it.  

Now the company is targeting ski resorts and mountain communities.  

In ski resorts in France there are 1m so-called 'cold beds'.   

These are beds that are not used - most are in privately owned chalets and apartments.  

Ski resorts want to turn these into 'hot beds' so people buy lift passes and spend money in resorts.  

Airbnb hopes to provide the answer.  

Alexis tours resorts resort to speak to chalet owners to encourage them to offer their spare rooms. 

Alexis in MeribelAlexis in Meribel

"We want to create a community of second-home owners that rent out their rooms and then use the other services in resorts from tours and instructors to catering," said Alexis.

It is fair to say that many hoteliers and tour operators see Airbnb ascompetition but resorts are more than interested as it could bring in many extra guests.

"It is important to us and a great chance to bring in more people. We are very interested in turning cold beds into hot beds," said the director of Crans-Montana, Bruno Huggler.            

Hugo Huggler, EMTSBruno Huggler, EMTS

And the hardest piece of the day so far?

Concentrating on the presentations and debate with this view from the conference room  Wink 

Look away nowLook away now

For more about EMTS see here:
See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the mountains.

For the Spirit of the Mountains - PlanetSKI: No1 for ski news


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