Summer holidays, whether they be on home soil or abroad, are at the forefront of many people’s minds. But the UK’s leading ski operator has revealed a rapid rise in the number of bookings for next winter as travel restrictions around the world are relaxed.
Bookings with Crystal Ski Holidays increased by 125 per cent in the week ending July 12, following the introduction of travel corridors, which negate the requirement for travellers to quarantine on their return to the UK, and the lifting of the FCO’s advice against all non-essential travel to an extensive list of destinations.
Visits to the operator’s website are also up 35 per cent compared to June. “In the weeks since the relaxation of air travel we’ve had a whopping 125 per cent increase in customers booked with us – this is a great indicator that demand for ski holidays is still there,” said Chris Logan, Managing Director of Crystal Ski Holidays.
“Many of our customers lost their time on the mountain last winter, as the pandemic forced us to cancel our entire programme in March. We are delighted to see that skiers and snowboarders are itching to get back on the slopes in just a few months.”
As the pandemic forces operators to reevaluate their services and packages, experts predict a boom in customers booking self-catered properties, which give them the ability to socially distance from others, and a move away from traditional catered options in shared chalets. Bookings with Crystal support this with 19 per cent of new booking being for self-catered chalets or apartments.
More surprisingly, half board hotels have so far been the most popular choice for skiers next winter, making up 64 per cent of booking so far, with bed and breakfast bookings accounting for 9 per cent.
However the traditional catered chalet model, which sees guests share living spaces and facilities, looks to have fallen out of favour with skiers currently looking to book for next winter – only 8 per cent have booked catered apartments or chalets with Crystal.
Resorts such as La Plagne in France, Obergurgl in Austria, Cervinia in Italy ad Pas de la Casa in Andorra have been among those most popular with skiers looking to escape to the slopes post-Covid, with all four Alpine nations included on the government’s quarantine-free list.
Crystal, along with all other operators in the ski industry, was forced to cancel thousands of ski holidays back in March as the pandemic spread across Europe and ski resorts were closed two months prematurely. Some customers have been left fighting for refunds, while others agreed to rearrange trips or credit notes – however most remain nervous about the future, with research suggesting booking protection, refund guarantees and bonding are now at the forefront of people’s minds when deciding on a holiday.
“Our research has also told us that financial protection is of paramount importance during these times, so an Atol protected package holiday is a lot more appealing in the current climate than a ‘DIY’ ski holiday,” said Logan.
The news comes after Tui, which owns Crystal Ski, announced last week that all its UK customers will receive free coronavirus insurance, which covers medical costs, until the end of the year. While this isn’t available for Crystal customers its ski holidays are Atol protected.
To encourage snow-sport fans to book, Crystal is currently running a number of offers. “Value is also really important. We have currently got a 2-for-1 lift pass deal which will save customers hundreds of pounds which is proving to be a very strong incentive,” said Logan.
Crystal is currently working on plans for next winter – last week competitor Inghams released details of the new measures it will bring in for the ski season, which included no food buffets or organised apres events. “Things will undoubtedly be a bit different, with health and safety measures being introduced to protect our customers and staff, but by the time our season launches we’ll have had a year since the crisis hit and we are now used to a new normal,” said Logan.
“We cover every element of the ski holiday, from flights and transfers to accommodation in over 100 resorts and there’s a huge amount of work going on to get ready for a safe and enjoyable return to the slopes.”