High Demand for Peak Time Ski Trips Next Winter

With this season looking like it could be a write-off, UK ski tour operators and travel agents say key dates for next winter are selling fast.

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Many companies put their 2021-22 holidays on sale months earlier than usual, offering incentives and discounts for early booking.

Those who want to guarantee a holiday at peak times, such as the February 2022 school half-term, are being encouraged to act soon.

Large numbers of customers have already chosen to transfer their booked trips to next season.

This, along with a significant cut in capacity as operators respond to the effects of both Covid-19 and Brexit, means fewer places for those wanting to book from scratch.

“We are two months ahead in sales for next winter,” Richard Sinclair, CEO of the specialist travel agent SNO, told PlanetSKI.

“We’ve had lots of enquiries this week.  It’s very, very busy.

“All the tour operators wanted people to move rather than cancel and got their prices for next winter out in October or November.

“They have massively reduced their inventory so there is less available and more that has been booked early.

“It may be that some accommodation comes back into the mix but there is much less than there was, especially chalets.

“People always want the peak times and these are always pinch points. The pinch points are slightly bigger for next winter with less availability.”

The independent operator, Skiworld, has noticed the same trend.

Skiworld – photo credit Ski World

“Advance bookings for 2020-21 were high at the end of the summer – I think because early on people wanted something to look forward to and many, of course, had had their holidays cancelled,” Skiworld’s Sales & Marketing Director, Diane Palumbo, told us.

“I don’t think any of us envisaged a second or third wave or that there would be a new more virulent strain.

“And, the trend was very much to upscale, ie to spend more! So peak dates were well booked and these people have now transferred their holidays to the equivalent dates in 2021-22.

“No one is making any secret of the fact that both accommodation and flying capacity has reduced as a result of both Brexit and the pandemic and so, yes, occupancy figures for 2021-22 are looking high already.”

Inghams put their winter 2021-22 ski holidays on sale earlier than usual and it’s reported that its holidays to Lapland will sell out.

However one of our readers, Matthew Green, commented on the prices for next season.

“I had a peek at Inghams for Feb 2022 and about fell off my chair at the prices! If I can’t ski this year and am priced out of next then I won’t be a happy bunny!” he told us.

Inghams – along with Esprit, Ski Total and Flexiski – are part of the large Swiss-owned Hotelplan group.

Esprit, which will not operate this winter, is selling for next season

Even before Covid-19 hit this season’s plans, Hotelplan had cut the number of ski chalets it was offering this winter by almost half.

The impact of the virus has forced it to scrap its entire Esprit programme for 2020-21 and all its chalet holidays in France across the brands.

Inghams has cancelled all holidays until at least the end of January.

It is still possible, of course, that UK operators will be able to offer a ski programme of sorts this winter, though the signs are not great.

Joe Ponte, the CEO of Hotelplan, told the Travelmole.com website –  in an interview conducted before Christmas and just published – that they would go ahead only if it was safe to do so.

“It is such a moving feast it is difficult to put a date on when we can say whether we are going ahead,” he said.

Richard Sinclair of SNO believes mass vaccination against Covid-19 will be a game-changer.

“Will it be a game-changer for this winter? Probably not,” he said.

“Travel restrictions will not change until death rates and infection rates come down.”

So, should we risk booking for the spring?

“It will be a massive bonus if we can ski in March or April.  But if not, then look on it as banking your holiday for next year.”

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