TTG Digital recently carried a revealing interview with Richard Bowen-Doyle, chairman of Neilson Active Holidays since  their management buy-out from Thomas Cook last year.

neilson logo


More guests in winter, more profit in summer

Among the interesting stats revealed include:

  • The turnover is £75 million to £80 million
  • They carry 40,000 passengers to 9 beach clubs in summer
  • This compares to 45,000 to 220 properties in winter
  • Their summer programme is two and half times more profitable than their winter programme
  • The Hotel Aalborg (Les 2 Alpes) carries 6%-7% of their ski business, but delivers 25% of the profit
‘All you end up doing is competing on price’

In Bowden-Doyle’s opinion, the problem with the winter market is the inability to differentiate:

Effectively, you’re selling the same thing as everyone else and all you end up doing is competing on price. 

Are Neilson being modest or Crystal being generous?

So far so interesting, but what really piqued our interest were those numbers on the size of their winter market. According to the interview, Neilson carries

45,000 in up to 220 properties in the winter

What’s so surprising about this to us is that last year’s Crystal Industry Report suggests they carried 61,500 in 2012/13 down from 80,000 in 2009/10.


crystal industry report

Esprit/Total up to third place?

We have previously suggested before that Crystal’s report can tend to tell a story that suits their own narrative.

But we have always assumed they underestimate their competitor’s market share, rather than over-estimate it.

It will be interesting to see what the figures for 2013/14 are when the new Crystal Ski report is published next month.  Based on this, and last season’s activity, we would expect Esprit/Total to replace Neilson as the 3rd largest ski tour operator in the UK.


By Iain Martin