A long-established specialist ski travel agency has warned that travel agencies may be at risk due to a combination of factors, one of them a lack of ski package holidays currently available to sell.
“Agents that are third party resellers only will be under enormous pressure this forthcoming season due to an unprecedented level of toxicity,” said Nick Edwards, boss of Snowfinders, who was speaking after the small tour operator agency Ski2, which had operated for more than 20 years in the Aosta Valley as well as Morzine and Les Gets in France, became the latest ski business to announce it was ceasing trading due to the impacts of Brexit and Covid.
“The problem that we are facing as agents is the lack of stock to sell,” said Mr Edwards, adding, “Tour operators work on slim margins under heavily regulated conditions with a risk reward ratio that would baffle anyone. I would say package-holiday availability is down by around 50% for this coming winter. It is no surprise given the post-Brexit access to employment that the chalet market has been hardest hit.”
The warning comes as many British ski holiday tour companies say their booking levels for the coming season are massively up on pre-Covid levels for this time of year, partly due to the number of holidays held over by skiers from previous winters and partly from pent-up demand starting to be released.
Mr Edwards says that his business is not in the same sort of danger as it has its own ATOL licence which allows them a degree of autonomy and flexibility in the marketplace which many agents do not have.
“One operator in particular has already squeezed commission rates to untenable levels and this has further exacerbated the situation. Then mix this with the merchant facilities refusing to reduce rates, bonding being harder and more expensive and principles refusing to refund after a chargeback has been made against the agent and many will just close their doors,” Mr Edwards warned.
In terms of advice to skiers for the coming winter Mr Edwards concludes,
“For the majority of skiers this means less options, higher prices and an absolute requirement to book early. It is highly unlikely that last minute deals of distressed stock will be on offer this season as demand will outstrip supply. If there are last minute deals then that means suppliers will be selling stock to lessen their losses and that in turn will lead to more financial failures, of that there is no doubt. So skiers hanging fire and benefitting from late deals will be slaughtering the goose that laid the golden egg. I may sound like a snake oil salesman but the truth is UK skiers have to back the package market if they want a stable and sustainable ski market offering value holidays.”
“If skiers haggle on prices that are already much cheaper than they can obtain by doing it themselves or wait for distressed stock to buy at bargain basement levels they will simply hammer home the remaining nails into the ski industry’s coffin. We are sending an SOS out – a fair price for a fair holiday. Support your ski businesses or they will disappear and skiing will be reduced back to a past time of the elite.”