Events, dear boy, events

Harold McMillan understood that the best laid plans can easily be undone at any moment thanks to unexpected events.

The Coronavirus brought the ski industry to its knees in the space of a dramatic few days earlier this month. I blogged last week about how snowsports companies should adjust their ski marketing.

But a week is a long time for COVID-19 (as anyone self-isolating with their family will know), so has my advice changed in the last week?

Skiing better placed to recover than other sectors in travel

Let’s start with a positive. Most resorts may have lost 20-25% of their 2019/20 season, but there’s a reasonable lead time until the next season starts.

Consumer confidence is at a low right now, and the summer season in the mountains looks unlikely to start at all.

However it’s the winter that counts (unless you’re Chamonix or Zermatt) – and that winter is still over 8 months away.

Organic Traffic down significantly

Reviewing Analytics for some of my clients it’s evident that year-on-year traffic has gone down significantly.

Looking purely at Organic traffic (excluding the influence of now-paused paid campaigns), traffic for this client dropped away after the first Italian resorts closed:

In the case of this company, there was a spike after the announcement of the French resort closures and since then organic traffic has been down 65%.

It’s a similar pattern for this company, with organic traffic down a similar amount since 15 March.

Consumers are booking for 2020/21

A fall in traffic is not that surprising. It’s partly supply led as there are no ski holidays to sell for the tail-end of the season.

What is clear is that there are users searching for 2020/21 ski holidays:

Consumers know that peak dates such as February half-term and New Year fill quickly and – at present – there is reasonable confidence that we will be sufficiently COVID-free to ski by then.

My recommendation is to market holidays with strong incentives to book early, such as free lift passes or group deals.

Target loyal, regular customers

COVID-19 should not be the elephant in the room (I noticed that Ski Weekends’ 2020/21 launch, encouraging as it is, does not mention it at all).

It may also take consumers time to come back around to the idea of travelling abroad on a non-refundable basis. You might also want to consider reviewing your T&Cs and offering fully refundable holidays.

As a result, ski companies should look to the future and target loyal, regular customers who will be more likely to take a ‘risk’ to book with you sooner than more casual holidaymakers.

Be imaginative with your social media

I wrote last week about the importance of continuing engagement with your fan base and reaching out to your followers.

It’s been great to see so much humour employed to help us get through this difficult time:

When you really, really miss the mountains…

Posted by French Mountains on Wednesday, 25 March 2020

These posts from the Cosmo Jazz Festival in Chamonix also stood out. At first, I assumed they had been mistakenly scheduled, but in fact they are live-streaming a concert a day from the 2019 event – a great way of keeping their base engaged.

Be careful with messages in your existing advertising

This is a banner that is still appearing regularly on the Planet ski website. But would you really want to #EscapeToTheSlopes when only a few weeks ago skiers were escaping from this very destination?

This isn’t advertising, but it’s a reminder (from the Telegraph) that you need to curate your content promotion as well…

Recovering trust

And some destinations will clearly find it difficult to recover trust in a post-COVID world.

It’s unlikely skiers will stop going to Ischgl – although much will depend on the results of the current criminal investigation – but I doubt ‘beer pong’ at the Kitzloch bar will ever be high again on anyone’s après-ski list.

These are strange times…

Finally, if there was any doubt that these are (cliché alert) ‘strange times’, this week saw a tourist board actively discouraging people from visiting:

Bon courage everyone!