Ski specialist group Hotelplan outlines measures to buoy its business as it tips the market to shrink this winter. Lee Hayhurst reports from its annual season launch
The vote for Brexit has prompted Inghams parent Hotelplan to rein back expansion but ski destinations are investing in the UK market to ward off a repeat of the post-2008 recession slump.
Andy Perrin, chief executive of Hotelplan UK, said the operator, which also owns the family-friendly Esprit Ski and chalet specialist Ski Total brands, was continuing to invest in upgrades but was cautious on expansion.
Steps taken include scaling back on its flying programme by opting for smaller aircraft and putting expansion of its multi-brand hotel chalet programme on hold after last year’s debut in Val d’Isère.
Perrin said: “None of these are panic measures, none are draconian. It’s nothing like what we had to go through after the banking crash, just a bit of fine‑tuning.
“We will see how the market feels in 2016-17 and therefore what plans to put in place for 2017-18.
“Will we have clarity about Brexit by then? Absolutely not, based on the timetable.
“But I expect we will have a better sense of the degree of confidence in the ski market by the end of April 2017.
“And by the end of 2017-18, I expect we will have much greater clarity on the wider political situation. For the time being we need to cut our cloth accordingly.”
Key to Hotelplan UK is what Brexit means for overseas workers as it employs thousands of Brits in resorts. Perrin said there is a determination among hoteliers, ski hire firms and lift companies to support the UK ski market, which saw a slump of a third after 2008.
This has seen special deals for lift passes, ski hire and lessons being offered.
“The UK ski market is and always has been hugely important to the vast majority of resorts we work with,” said Perrin.
“Because they felt the pain with us post-banking crash, there’s an awareness that sitting back and doing nothing is not an option.”
Ski capacity cut as market tipped to shrink
A 5% capacity reduction in ski this season due to a “lost week” in January will help balance a fall in demand following Brexit, according to Hotelplan.
Due to the way dates fall this year, with Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve on Saturdays, there are just four departure dates in January compared to five last year.
“The whole market is going to shrink a wee bit next year,” said Hotelplan UK chief executive Andy Perrin. “But probably in light of Brexit and the value of the pound, that’s not the worst thing to happen.”
He added the loss of capacity at Christmas, which was prompted too by poor December snow conditions in recent years, was already resulting in a tightening of demand for low-season dates and, although Easter comes late next year, it was “not a worry”.
However, Perrin was optimistic about the coming season. “There are uncertainties but it’s not doom and gloom by any means,” he said.
The weak pound “shines a spotlight” on operator deals based on fixed prices and including ancillaries and some meals and their value compared with booking direct, Perrin said.
Having switched departures to Fridays, Inghams is offering eight nights for the price of seven on holidays departing on December 30 and nine nights for seven with Esprit.
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