Ski vacations heat up

Asian holidaymakers are chasing excellent pow at ski resorts, feeding a strong rebound for winter holiday bookings

A growing appreciation for winter sports and a strong desire for holidays in the great outdoors and colder climes have fired up intense interest in winter and ski holidays among Asian travellers, especially those from tropical zones.

Expedia data shows ski holiday bookings last winter season (December 1, 2022 to March 31, 2023) out of Asia have climbed to 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels (December 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020). With ski resort bookings showing an average duration of three nights at least, Expedia believes travellers are staying on longer to ski.

Younger families are showing up for ski holidays

Luxury travel specialist, Scott Dunn, told TTG Asia that Asian enquiries and bookings for ski vacations have spiked 250 per cent in the last ski season, compared to the previous season in 2021/2022.

Koo Ying Ying, Europe travel specialist, Scott Dunn, said the intense interest could be due to travel restrictions being lifted, allowing Asians to get back to planning their long-overdue winter fun.

Asians are also drawn to wintry landscapes, like Lapland and Iceland, and the chance to chase down aurora visions.

“Snow has always been a really strong pull factor for guests from Asia, especially (those living in) tropical climate,” said Koo. “Post-pandemic, we also see that more guests are craving fresh air and longing to be in the great outdoors. The snowy mountains are the perfect place for this, and they also present a very different type of landscape compared to what most of us are accustomed to, which is another factor we think has led to this spike (in winter travel demand).”

When asked if Olympic Winter Games in Beijing 2022 and Pyeongchang 2018 could have fired up Asian interest in ski holidays, Rachael Harding, CEO for East and South Asia & Pacific at Club Med, said any major events on the world stage could influence consumer behaviour. Through the two Winter Olympics, winter sports as well as the host country are cast into the spotlight.

“The fact that Asia had two Winter Olympics in recent years certainly put the region on the map as a winter playground (and inspired people to see Asia as an option) for mountain holidays,” Harding told TTG Asia.

She added that the games had also created a new pool of young athletes and led to more ski associations opening up in various countries across Asia.

“A big case is the formation of the Ski and Snowboard Association of Thailand in 2016. Thailand is now our most aggressive market to rebound,” she said.

That said, Club Med mountain resorts have seen “this consistent trend for quite some time”, where ski business now contributes a third of total business compared to just 10 per cent in 2015.

Demand is growing year on year and “completely outstripping the capacity that we have”, remarked Harding.

Scott Dunn expects strong bookings to continue into the 2023/2024 season. “We’ve just opened bookings for the next ski season and there is already a healthy level of interest and bookings, especially from big families and groups of friends,” shared Koo.

She believes that customers are moving fast to secure availability and rates “because key dates – such as the Lunar New Year, Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and Easter – get booked up very quickly”.

Not only is ski travel demand returning fast, Koo said traveller profiles are also getting younger.

“Traditionally, we often see families with older children, between 12 and 19 years old. Now, we see a trend of younger families with children aged four to 10 exploring ski holidays,” she said.

Asians are open to snowy adventures all over the world. Expedia noted that Niigata, Japan; Zermatt, Switzerland; Banff, Canada; and Haute-Savoie, France are top ski destinations among Asian travellers. Among Scott Dunn’s customers, France and Italy are hot favourites, while Canada and Switzerland are gaining popularity. New Zealand makes a fine choice too, according to Koo, as it has a great ski season between June and September.

Slopes and more
With seven ski mountain resorts in Asia and 13 elsewhere in the world plus three more set to open, Club Med has established itself firmly in the space of winter vacations. However, Harding said the mountains are not just for winter sports enthusiasts.

“The mountains are a beautiful place to escape the city. There is fresh air and the resorts offer a holistic wellness experience. We have a lot of activities that don’t involve skiing and they lean into our different target audiences,” she said.

At Club Med Val d’Isère, the company’s first Exclusive Collection mountain resort in the heart of the French Alps, guests not into snow sports can spend their winter vacation learning how tomme de Savoie and Avalin cheese are made, exploring the old village of Val d’Isère, reclaiming their health at the yoga studio and gym, wining and dining through multiple F&B outlets on property, and joining in artistic events.

Easier vacations
Recognising that winter holidays are a little more complex to plan, Expedia has in recent years been working with ski resorts to provide packages and deals for customers, all to make ski holidays more accessible for international travellers. Ski packages may include room nights, breakfast, barbecue, ski lift and gear rental, shared an Expedia spokesperson.

Scott Dunn’s travel specialists are trained to guide customers on their ski needs and propose the best destination and property based on their preferences. For adventurous guests, these travel specialists may even suggest heli-skiing and glacier hiking. The agency also boasts its own ski concierge team that will help customers secure lessons, passes, restaurant bookings, and transfers once the holiday booking is confirmed.

“We are also able to plan flight routings and itinerary suggestions to visit nearby European cities before or after a ski trip,” said Koo, adding that pre-departure calls and briefings are provided to ensure guests are well-prepared for their winter break.

For families, Scott Dunn offers two Explorers Kids Clubs in the French Alps – one in Val d’Isere and the other in Courchevel. In Val d’Isere, for example, families can engage a nanny to pick the children up from the hotel in the morning, and help them with ski passes, lessons, attire and equipment.

“This equals less fuss, and allows parents to enjoy themselves on the slopes knowing that their kids are well taken care of,” said Koo.

Scott Dunn Explorers Kids Club also curates other activities, besides winter sports, to keep little ones engaged for days.

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