The annual ski industry reports from Crystal Holidays and the Ski Club of Great Britain may be based more on educated guesswork than actual data, but that does not mean they are not useful.

Any information that helps us to understand our industry better is valuable, and if the reports are flawed, they are probably flawed in the same way each year. This means we can use them to look for trends across the industry.

France’s catastrophic collapse

We at Skipedia recently did some number-crunching based on figures from these reports across the last 15 years. This post on this highlights France’s catastrophic collapse in the British market and contrasts it with Austria’s remarkable performance in a declining market:

The collapse of British snowsports tourism to France has been spectacular.  In 2007/08, over half a million Brits were travelling to ski and snowboard in France, but by 2010/11 this had fallen to less than 350,000 – over 150,000 lost in just three years.  That’s a fall of 33%, relative to a decrease in the total market of 23%.

Austria’s impressive performance

Austria has seen a decrease in numbers from the UK in the last three years, but this fall has been limited to just 4% (in a market, remember, that has fallen 23%), and there has in fact been a 10% increase in UK skiers and snowboarders travelling to the country since 2006/07.

So what is Austria doing right and France doing wrong?

While we recognise that French resorts have suffered more from the reduction in capacity by the larger operators, there seems to be no doubt that the country is viewed by British consumers as expensive and poor value.   Holidaymakers have transferred their allegiance to other countries such as Austria or chosen not to travel.

While some resorts (notably Avoriaz, Tignes and Morzine) have invested in new resort facilities, French resorts have not responded quickly enough by addressing their product.  Austria, on the other hand, has been improving their product over several years.

“The Austrians have been catching the French up with quality accommodation for some time now,” Ian Hope, Programme Director at Esprit Ski/Ski Total told us, “Cutting edge chalets with wellness centres are becoming the norm.”

Additionally French resorts have also not taken advantage of social media as successfully as Austria (where Saalbach Hinterglemm has set an excellent example).

There are exceptions, such as Megeve, but it remains surprising that many French resorts have not invested in professional Facebook pages and a large number still have no presence on Twitter, limiting their ability to communicate with the UK market.

No doubt the combination of increased tour operator capacity and an (eventually) recovering market will redress the balance, but there is a risk that without action France will lose a large sector of the British market for good.


A note on the calculations
All our workings are based on the publicly available figures produced by Crystal Holidays and The Ski Club of Great Britain.  To find the absolute numbers travelling to each country, we applied the Percentage Country Share to the Total Market Size.  As the Ski Club have always reported the Total Market as being larger than the figure Crystal produces, we split the difference by adding the relevant numbers together and averaging them.

By Iain Martin