LISTEX 2020 Summary – What have we learnt since lockdown and where are we now?

Mountain Trade Network launched in April 2020 just after mountain resorts across the world closed. At our first online event MOTEX all the way back in April we started to survey skiers in the UK, to understand how their behaviour had changed as a result of the pandemic and what actions the industry could take to start encouraging bookings for 2021.

Since then we have run 8 virtual events generating over 4o hours of research, presentations and discussion around the mountain travel market and our response to Covid-19. 6 separate consumer surveys have generated thousands of responses and data points from consumers highlighting key concerns, wants, needs and behavioural shifts.

So what have we learnt?

The cycles has become a cycle of cycles…

Crisis – Recovery – Recession. Back in April/May this seemed to be the likely set of phases we would move through. Back then we knew we were in the midst of a crisis, we were planning for recovery and we were thinking how to mitigate the impact of the looming recession that seemed sure to follow.

Now, we have gone through something of a recovery phase with very busy summers in many mountain resorts, but rather than emerging on the ‘other side’ many countries are now back into crisis mode as infection rates increase, restrictions return and international travel once again is curtailed. Recessionary impact has to some extent been reduced by government interventions, but it is inevitable and now we face crisis and recession occurring at the same time.

Sentiment, scenarios and safeguarding – the state of the snowsports market

Consumers are ready for change, and a surprising number are even prepared to quarantine to get their ski fix. Not only do they accept and understand the safety measures that are planned in resorts this winter, but in many cases they would like to see further measures especially limits on the number of people in lifts, and possibly even on the mountain. They do however want more information and clarity on the measures planned for this winter.

85% of those who ski regularly are hoping to ski this year if conditions permit. Looking ahead, an encouraging number of consumers suggest they will look to ‘make up’ for lost ski days in the 2021/22 season, with only 4% saying they won’t ski again, but a massive 60% planning to take two or more ski holidays, up from a more typical 45% in previous years.

Watch a short excerpt from the presentation below:

MTN Premium members can view the full presentation and download the slide deck here

What about apres? What parts of the ski experience may be gone forever, and what might replace them?

One thing we know for sure about the 2020/21 ski season is apres-ski will certainly be different, with table service replacing table dancing and music more for relaxing than for partying. But was this a trend that was happening anyway? We gather 4 experts, Adam Breen of Le Verre Gourmand – suppliers of wine and craft beer to numerous alpine bars and chalets, Rich Lett of Apres Ski Bands and Piste Productions who work with hundreds of musicians and venues across the alps, Sean Newsom who writes about skiing for the Sunday Times and WeLove2Ski who has sampled every conceivable type of apres ski across the planet, and Lucy Aspden online ski editor of The Telegraph, who provides regular updates and insights to thousands of UK skiers on what they can expect from their ski holiday this winter.

A lively debate revealed several key findings. Alpine venues are incredibly adaptable and are ready for a different type of apres this winter whatever the restrictions and regulations they need to abide by. The party reputation of apres is somewhat overdone, with far more skiers looking for a quiet drink by a roaring fire at the end of a day on the hill, rather than stage diving with a flaming sambuca in each hand. Our panel also highlighted the opportunity to increase the variety offered in mountain resorts in the winter, from increased dining options to other activities. Technology can also play a role – especially in providing more entertainment for younger visitors.

The panel also agreed that whilst some short term mitigation of the more ‘full on’ styles of apres ski was very much needed this year – resorts that provide that proper party experience shouldn’t throw away their positioning as international party hotspots, as the appetite in the market would very much remain post Covid.

Watch a short excerpt from the debate below:

MTN Premium members can view the full debate here

What are other areas of travel doing to recover, and what can we learn from them?

We are of course not alone, in terms of dealing with the impact of Covid-19. The entire travel industry has been hit, and some sectors harder than us. So what are they doing? Tourism expert Mark Frary joined us for an overview of measures employed by other sectors of travel and which may just work for the mountain industry.

Mark highlighted how effective lobbying brought about the travel corridors which allowed at least some summer holidays to proceed. He also highlighted how shifting business models were creating ‘travel’ products that couldn’t previously have been imagined, from Qantas Airlines ‘Flights to Nowhere’ taking in views of the Sydney Skyline to Singapore Airlines dine aboard options – dinner on an A380 parked on the tarmac which sold out in less than 30 minutes.

Mark also highlighted how some countries and tourist boards are offering financial enticements to lure visitors, with Sicily budgeting a total of $75 million for incentives.

One of the most interesting initiatives which would easily transfer to winter sports was the Faroe Islands ‘radio controlled’ travel guide. Can’t go skiing? Why not have your own personal ski guide make the turns for you…

Watch a short excerpt from Mark’s presentation below:

MTN Premium members can view the full presentation and download the slide deck here

Survival is the first step, but how can we prepare for the long term to thrive as an industry?

Short term vs long term was a theme we explored back in the first MOTEX in April, you can view Jason Wills’ presentation here (you’ll need to be a premium member). With so many companies having had to bunker down to survive, what are the dangers of doing nothing right now, what pivots might be possible and how can you ensure your brand is ready to compete for the undoubted demand that exists (when conditions allow for travel again).

In this session MTN CEO James Gambrill examines some of the most recent marketing literature that points to how companies can grow as normal times resume, and two of the key ingredients to any successful brand positioning, distinctiveness and differentiation. We also examined when seemingly crazy ideas have actually proved to be very sensible and successful, and how focusing on the real customer need rather than perceived problem could lead to adopting a very different and sometimes much simpler strategy.

Iain Martin of digital marketing consultancy Skipedia then took us through 10 steps to ensure you are ready for the recovery, and Warren Smith of the Warren Smith Ski Academy told us more about their personal business journey, virtual ski training and talking dummies…

Watch a short excerpt from the presentation and discussion below:

MTN Premium members can view the full presentation and discussion and download the slide deck here

What’s next? Facing the future and the forces that will shape our world and our industry

Looking a little further ahead, futurist Jeremy Spiller weaved a story of the villains (covid, global warming) in our world, and the heroes (our doctors and nurses, and us as the industry that can bring great joy into people’s lives). Jeremy highlighted some of the most enterprising initiatives in the search for sustainability, including sewage being converted into snow in Australia.

Jeremy offered some key suggestions for success in our fast changing world. Look after your data, as it’s the oil that will make your organisation run smoothly. Reduce friction from the customer journey with technology by embracing change rather than resisting it. He also foresees the potential changes in our industry landscape, with more of a mix of mega-resorts and owner operated and influenced local destinations co-existing and appealing to different types of visitors.

Watch a short excerpt from Jeremy’s presentation below:

MTN Premium members can view the full presentation and discussion and download the slide deck here

The real existential threat to our industry, why we must make sustainability central to our recovery – and what might that future look like?

There is no long term recovery unless we truly embrace sustainability now, since unchecked climate change will destroy the very asset we depend on, our snow. But far from being a future where we must go without, a sustainable future could not only be cleaner, but so much better.

David Wellborg from Pitea in Swedish Lapland presented some of the astonishing sustainable initiatives already in place in his destination, from CO2 eating hotels to fishnet carpets and electric snowmobiles –  and so much more. Max Smith of Morzine based Montage Verte spoke of the many plans already underway in his local area to reduce waste, increase options for visitors to make more sustainable choices and ultimately not just protect but improve the mountain environment. Finally Sarisher Mann, economist and founder of SATI (Sustainable Alpine Tourism Initiative) reflected on the fact that for many mountain regions tourism IS the economy, and how sustainability and luxury are not in any way mutually exclusive and the importance of joined up thinking and implementing circular economy models can lead to both a sustainable and very prosperous future for Alpine tourism.

Watch a short excerpt from the discussion below:

MTN Premium members can view the full discussion here

MTN Premium membership currently costs from £299 for 12 months (usually £499) and provides access to all 40+ hours of presentations and discussions from all of our virtual events plus access to all our future virtual events for 12 months with the opportunity to schedule meetings with other MTN members and the MTN Marketplace where members can post opportunities – press releases, videos, brochures and any other type of content to share with our 500 MTN members.

Join MTN or upgrade to premium membership here

The LISTEX Online Trade Exchange 2020 was sponsored by Flywire. Flywire provide tailored payment solutions for travel companies reducing costs and increasing efficiencies.

Flywire offers seamless payment solutions that save travel companies time and money, and improve the guest experience.
With Flywire, you can receive 100% of your payment in the currency of your choice, while reducing merchant and bank fees significantly. You can collect payments through Flywire’s invoicing solution, or easily integrate Flywire into your current checkout or invoicing flow.
Meanwhile, your guests pay in their local currency, with multiple payment options, a simple checkout process, competitive exchange rates, and 24×7 live support.
Flywire regularly saves travel companies tens of thousands a year or more. To find out how much they can save you, request a free travel payments assessment at flywire.com/assessment.

View their travel case studies below:

Ian Taylor Trekking

Galangal Trekking