Luxury travel brand and leading ski operator, Club Med has revealed its findings from its annual ski report, titled Costs, Habits and Conditions: State of Ski for the Upcoming Season. As the nation continues to grapple with rising costs of inflation and climate change, winter sports holidays have shifted once more for Brits. Evidence shows that while long-haul and further afield destinations remain on the bucket list, it’s Europe leading the way for the ski season this year, albeit with some new trends emerging for the season ahead.
While there is a major appetite for most skiers to return to the slopes during the 2023/24 winter season, it’s important to consider how rising inflation is impacting holiday booking behaviours. Research conducted of 1,000 frequent skiers and snowboarders in the UK found that many are opting to book earlier with the aim of securing lower rates. Two in five (43%) have already booked a winter sports holiday for the upcoming season and 43% of these said they booked earlier as a result of rising inflation. Two thirds (67%) booked nine months or more in advance of their departure date, compared to only 59% in 2022. Club Med has seen this trend first hand with its own customers, with 83% of bookings for the upcoming ski season made six months in advance.
Over half of those surveyed, (54%) say they are reconsidering their usual type of accommodation due to cost of living, and three in five (61%) skiers say they are more likely to book all-inclusive due to rising inflation. The all-inclusive model is the most popular accommodation type for skiers this coming season, with nearly two in five (38%) of those who have already booked a ski holiday opting for this offering.
Club Med has seen a 10% year-on-year increase for bookings this winter (when compared to the same time last year).
The cost of living crisis is certainly a consideration for holiday budgets this year. From those polled and already booked, the average ski holiday spend for the 2023/24 season is £1,580 per person (down by £399 from 2022/23); a sign that many are having to approach spending more cautiously. While this is slightly lower than the average spend of a Club Med customer – which for the winter 2023/24 season is so far £1,943 – Club Med pride themselves on their top of the range, all-inclusive ski package whereby the price is locked in at the point of the holiday booking – ensuring customers are not hit by any added costs due to inflation or currency fluctuations.
Nicolas Bresch, Managing Director, UK, Ireland & Nordics at Club Med, comments, “We have seen significant early appetite for alpine holidays for the winter 2023/24 season, with demand higher than ever throughout September. It’s encouraging to see the high number of Brits booking early this year, as well as the number opting for all-inclusive this year, a sign of holidaymakers choosing to lock in their holiday prices before they rise throughout the season.”
When it comes to when in the season Brits intend to take their winter sports holiday, Club Med has found customers flocking to book in late January and February half term, with the resorts of Val dIsere and Tignessitting at over 95% occupancy for the popular school half-term week. Survey respondents displayed similar attitudes towards booking this year, with January coming out as the most popular month for people booking their trip for the coming ski season. This differs from last year’s findings whereby December was the most popular month to book – perhaps a sign of changing confidence in early snow conditions, prompting seasoned skiers to shift their trip back in hopes of more snowfall.
Overall, 81% would be more likely to book a holiday with an operator offering a snow guarantee. Club Med’s leading Snow Guaranteewould see skiers moved to an alternative resort or offered a credit note for the full value of their stay, if more than 50% of the ski domain is closed for two or more consecutive days within a five-day period before departure (excluding the cost of the flights, transfers and extras).
For frequent skiers, choosing a resort or destination was previously influenced by the fondness for a resort or the desire to try somewhere new. For the 2023/24 season however, ongoing socio-economic issues are playing a pivotal role in where Brits are booking their winter sports holiday.
In terms of destinations, Switzerland (23%) continues to be the most popular for the ski season, followed by France (20%), Austria (13%), Italy (8%) and Canada (7%). According to Club Med’s sales data, bookings for Alpe d’Huezare up 26% year-on-year, alongside Tignes, Val d’Isere, Les Arcs Panoramain the French Alps which make up the top five most booked resorts for the upcoming season
As money remains top of mind for Brits, it’s no surprise that when booking a winter sports holiday, almost half of those surveyed consider value for money (45%) to be the most important factor. Once
again, Europe came out on top for ski destinations considered best value for money, with France (37%) leading the way.
In addition to the value piece, snow conditions and the lasting memory of a lacklustre early season last year is also having a knock-on effect as to where people are booking their winter sports holiday. Of those polled, over half (55%) are reconsidering their winter sports destination given last season’s snow conditions. This can be seen from the resorts already booked for the upcoming season, and Club Med benefitting from a number of high altitude resorts which are more snow-sure – including nine locatedover 1800m in the Alps.
An avid skier or not, the scenes unfolding on the continent at the start of the 2022/23 season were unavoidable. Images of the Alps across Europe were making headline news in December and January, with a lack of snowfall and rising temperatures leaving some lower-altitude resorts in an operationally difficult situation. Last year’s unpredictable snowfall formed the basis for Club Med’s updated and comprehensive Snow Gurantee, which is now included within all winter sports bookings.
As the climate crisis continues to intensify, it is perhaps no surprise that 60% of those surveyed look at the sustainability credentials of their holiday provider before booking a holiday. This figure has increased from 54% just two years ago, demonstrating the ever growing significance of sustainability for customers and how this is now becoming a key factor when selecting a holiday.
When it comes to transport methods in getting to winter sports destinations, while flying still leads the way (69%), almost a quarter (24%) are now opting to drive and 17% catching the train. The option to use the train is an increase of almost a 100% year-on-year and partly due to the reinstating of the Snow Trainheading to key destinations in the French Alps via a changeover in Lille.