International Report on Snow & Mountain Tourism
Highlight - the best ski season of the millennium! The 2018/19 ski season presented in the 2020 International Report on Snow & Mountain Tourism report is the best of the new millennium as far as global visitation figures are concerned. It is a pleasure to see that despite adverse conditions the ski industry is facing, with climate change, increasing competition and the demographics, it still has the potential to feature globally 3 seasons in a row with growth. In today’s depressed environment further to covid-19 abrupt closure of the 2019/20 season in most of the northern hemispheres’ ski areas, this is heralding of a better tomorrow. It demonstrates the strength of the ski industry notwithstanding the current situation and allows dreaming that the 2020/21 season will enable to return to a high level of attendance at ski resorts all over the world.
During 2018/19 winter, United States ski areas recovered with excellent snow conditions and performed well above average. The country is back on the top of the podium for the 2018/19 season. Visitation level was the 4th best in the past 41 years. It may also have been boosted by the spread of the mega-passes that the enhanced competition created by the consolidation of the industry is heavily promoting. This trend, together with dynamic pricing, has also now reached Europe. Both are introducing a disruption in the traditional business model of the industry that is still viewed with a touch of scepticism in some places and not yet widely adopted. However, discounted multi-resort seasonal passes seem to have helped for the recovery of attendance at Swiss resorts for instance. Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia are also featuring some interesting examples, which integrate interactive customer relationship management systems.
China has built a powerful ski-breading infrastructure, even if it is not yet used to its full potential, with the development of ski training centres including ski simulators, dry slopes and a growing number of indoor ski halls. However, the industry there still needs to get more mature and has not yet found the golden way to introduce early beginners to skiing with a high customer satisfaction rate that generate a high level of returning guests. Unfortunately, western ski areas have nothing better to offer in support, as this has been for now 2 decades an unsolved pain point in European and North American ski destinations. In spite of this weakness, Chinese ski industry managed to sustain its growth and reached over the 20 million skier visits mark in 2018/19 season.
In Asia, Japan and South Korea still feature a worrying situation. When South Korea ended up showing continuously deteriorating visitation numbers, with a stabilisation in 2018/19, after 6 years of decline, Japan saw again lower attendance. After having stabilised over the former 2 seasons at a level that was about half than 20 years ago, Japanese skier visits figures were dropping again in 2018/19. Iceland and Scotland also experienced very poor seasons, due to bad weather conditions and lack of snow.
Despite the picture is not bright for all industry players, major ones have been favourably influenced in 2018/19 winter:
- A return to a better level of snowfalls in the United States;
- The growing Chinese market still stimulated by the 2022 Winter Games perspective;
- A recovery in some Alpine countries;
- A sustained growing trend in Scandinavia as also in the southern hemisphere;
- The end of the erosion of skier visits in the other western European countries.
All these contributed to make season 2018/19 the best of the new millennial.
A quote from Jimmy Petterson’s foreword to the 2020 report
How many pistes are there at North Korea’s Masikryong ski resort? Are there any plans in the works to revive the defunct Algerian ski resorts of Tikjda and Chrea? Has the Pakistani ski center of Malam Jabba been rebuilt since it was destroyed by the Taliban? Are the ski pistes in Iran segregated or may men and women actually frequent the same trails? Laurent’s report is where you will most likely get the answers to all these questions and much more. So, whether you are the mountain manager of a major Alpine resort or a poor ski bum hoping to locate the cheapest ski resorts, you are likely to glean some relevant information from Laurent in this document.