Phones are getting bigger, movies are getting longer, but ski industry reports are getting smaller.

Last week, Crystal Holidays released their annual Ski Industry Report – it totalled just 8 pages and took five minutes to cover.  In contrast, their 2013 report was 23 pages long and included significantly more analysis.

crystal industry report 2014

No estimate of market size

This week, The Ski Club of Great Britain followed that trend.

Their 2014 report used a smaller sample size of 14600 (it was 21000 in 2013), but more significantly did not publish a figure for the total size of the market – the first time the Ski Club has done this since they introduced their annual report.

There is a feeling within the industry that both the Ski Club and Crystal Ski have recognised the limitations of trying to estimate the size of the market.

ski club presentation


Did Neilson derail the Crystal ‘League Table’?

When Neilson chairman, Richard Bowen-Doyle, announced recently that the company carried 45,000 passengers each winter, some saw this as an attempt to derail Crystal’s annual ‘league table’ of tour operators.

Maybe Crystal would have left this section out of their report anyway, but this was probably the nail in the coffin.

‘Not far off the million mark’

It now seems that the Ski Club of Great Britain is happy to steer clear of pinning the tail on the donkey of UK market size.

When asked, Ski Club CEO, Frank McCusker, did say he believed the size of the market was ‘not far off the million mark’.

Given that in 2013, the Ski Club estimated the size of the market at 1.4 million, this seems like a tacit acceptance that the actual figure is too complex to calculate.  Either that, or the market has fallen by around 30% in one year, and bad as it was, it wasn’t that bad!


Caveat no.1 – Source data

The Ski Club of Great Britain stopped publishing their report in 2012 (view that report here), instead building a private survey from extensive market research, available for purchase.

The responses used to compile the report were gathered from ‘a mix of tour operators, travel agents, airlines, resorts and hotels’.

19% of the respondents were non-skiers – this suggests that a large proportion of the sample size came from an airline, rather than ski specialists tour operators, agents, resorts and hotels..

This would suggest that a large proportion of respondents travelled independently, rather than with a tour operator (who would have travelled on a charter airline).   This could skew the results of the survey.

Caveat no.2 – Mode of response

Secondly, as the survey was conducted online, there is an inherent bias towards those people who are comfortable using the internet, but more importantly, who have the time to complete a survey.

As Andy Perrin from Inghams observed, many in the younger demographics would not be prepared to take the time to complete a survey, and therefore the answers would be skewed inherently towards older respondents.


14 Takeaways from the Ski Club of Great Britain Industry Report

So, with these two caveats, what did the report reveal?

  1. People are more likely to ski
    Asked the question ‘Are you more or less likely to ski in the next 5 years?’ 29% said they were more likely and 8% less likely – a net gain of 21% representing a great opportunity for the industry.
  1. An ageing profile
    The reports showed that 80% of skiers are over 40 and we should be wary of this ageing market
  1. People start skiing when they are younger
    The survey showed that 70% of respondents took up skiing before the age of 30.  Impressively (we thought) 13% took up skiing after the age of 40.
  1. Family holidays introduce more people to skiing than school trips
    The survey showed that the most common way to be introduced to skiing was by skiing with friends (40%), followed by a family holiday (28%) ahead of a school trip (18%)
  1. The school trip as a first ski holiday is in decline
    This isn’t the most surprising insight, but it was interesting to see that the proportion of those whose first ski trip was with this school declines by age.  While 25% of 40-49 year olds first travelled with their school, this decreases to 18% in the 21-29 age group.  Almost half of 21-29 year olds rely on their family to introduce them to skiing.
  1. More people are booking online
    Again it wasn’t a staggering insight to learn that 90% of bookings involve the internet.  Perhaps the real surprise is that there are still 10% of people who book a holiday without looking at the Internet at all.  Note also the caveats noted above.What was interesting was that according to the survey 56% of bookings were made entirely on the internet, relative to 46% in 2013.  That equates to 22% growth in one year – not impossible, but again we found ourselves wondering if this was skewed by the source data.It’s also interesting to contrast these numbers with the Ski Club report from 2012 which claimed that 27% of people book online and that 47% book by phone.
  1. The independent sector represents 55% of the market
    Crystal estimate the size of the independent sector at 29% of all bookings, but the actual size has always been the subject of much debate.By definition it is almost impossible to measure – how can you know if someone travels with EasyJet to Zurich, then takes the train to stay in a hotel in St Anton? Or if someone crosses the channel with Eurotunnel and then drives to a gite in Vallorcine?It does seem plausible that the independent share of the market is significantly higher than that proposed by Crystal – indeed it might be argued that it’s in their interests to play down the role of the independent sector.Even if the Ski Club’s figures are skewed to independent travel, they are consistent with their 2013 figure (54%).The truth may lie somewhere between the two figures.
  1. 27% of UK skiers travel over just 3 weeks of the season
    The survey showed that 5.9% travel at Christmas, 8.1% at New Year, 12.7% at February Half Term – 26.7% of all skiers.  Easter accounted for 11% of skiers, although this is less useful for comparisons due to the variability of dates.
  1. Are NPS Scores lower for larger tour operators?
    The survey showed that Net Promoter Scores (NPS) – effectively how likely a company is to be recognised – were higher for ‘Medium’ and ‘Niche’ companies than ‘Large’ ones.This doesn’t seem that surprising to us, but the validity was questioned by Andy Perrin from Inghams, who observed that the data that they collect from their customers (as a ‘Large’ company) show a much better score.
  1. North America scores highest NPS
    Canada scored the highest NPS (59), followed by the USA (53) and then Andorra (38).  It was suggested that Andorra have upped their game in the last year by improving their lift systems and resort service.
  1. France has the best customer loyalty
    To misquote Mark Twain, rumours of France’s death have been greatly exaggerated.  71% of skiers to France plan to return again next season.
  1. Snow, snow and more snow
    The most important factors in resort choice was identified as Guaranteed Snow
  1. The most recommended resort
    According to the NPS numbers, Breckenridge is the UK’s most recommended resort, with Whistler and Aspen following.  The highest European resort was Ischgl.
  1. The least recommended resort
    Sadly, Cairngorm in Scotland won the honours for this title…


Article by Iain Martin