AGENTS are not taking full advantage of the opportunities to dynamically package ski holidays, according to Satellite Travel managing director Barry Lewis.

He said retailers who package summer holidays can just as easily do the same for a ski break, putting rooms from an accommodation-only specialist such as Lowcostbeds together with Satellite’s flight-only seats and private transfers from the likes of Skihoppa.com or Transferintelligence.com.

The company has seat-only availability on seven flights a week from the UK to Chambery this winter, but agents can also tap into EasyJet flights to Geneva or BMI’s four flights per week from Heathrow to Lyon between December 8 and March 24 2007. Fares start at £30 one way including taxes.

As an alternative to flying, agents can package hotels with Eurostar’s snow-train service from Folkestone to Aime la Plagne, for holidays in La Plagne; Bourg Saint Maurice, for Les Arcs, Val d’Isère and Tignes; and Moûtiers Salins Brides-les-Bains for Meribel, Courchevel and Val Thorens.

Lewis said with some knowledge of the market agents can book extras such as lift passes, boot and ski hire and lessons online. “Although they won’t get commission, it’s much the same story if they go though an operator.”

Erna Low managing director Jane Hartley said the company sells a lot of accommodation-only product direct and through the trade. “Agents should not to try to dynamically package a ski holiday unless they know what they’re doing.”

Hartley said the biggest problem is transfers, which average two or three hours and are therefore expensive, although an alternative is for clients to hire a car. “But it is often not as cost-effective as an operator’s transfer,” she added.

The big operators, not surprisingly, are keen to dissuade agents from dynamically packaging ski holidays.

Thomson Ski and Snowboarding product and marketing director Gareth Crump said he can’t think of a ski holiday clients could want that is not available in one of the brochures.

“Clients recognise that winter is a more hostile environment than summer. They don’t want to be driving on snow, struggling to put on snow chains or carrying heavy ski equipment, and they want the support of a resort rep if there is a problem such as too much or too little snow.”

Crump said it would also be difficult for agents to find good accommodation, as the best beds have been contracted by the operators and tied up with their charter flights.

Inghams sales manager Peter Rollison said: “The effort an agent would have to go to to package the more specialist elements such as ski packs and resort transfers would not be cost-effective.”

Neilson managing director Peter Tyler said: “I have tried it and it doesn’t work. It might be cheaper, but most people only have seven days holiday and don’t want to waste it travelling. Unless you always go to the same resort you do need someone to help so you don’t put your holiday at risk.”

 

Sample product: traditional vs. dynamic

Traditional operators

Crystal Holidays
Seven nights’ self-catering at Les Ravines Apartments in Meribel costs from £317 per person departing on January 13, including flights from Gatwick to Grenoble and transfers.

Total cost for four people: £1,268.

Airtours
Seven nights’ self-catering at Les Fermes de Meribel in Meribel costs from £299 per person departing on January 13 including flights from Gatwick to Grenoble and transfers.

Total cost for four people: £1,196.

Dynamically packaged holiday

Return Gatwick-Chambery flights departing January 13 from £129 per person, booked through Satellite Travel, Sutton, Surrey.
One week’s self-catering at the Les Sentiers du Tueda apartments in Meribel for four people starting January 13, from £408, booked through Erna Low.
A Renault Scenic for one week starting January 13, from £223, hired from Holiday Autos.

Total holiday cost for four people: £1,147 per person.

 

Dynamic with ski?
If you dynamically package ski holidays we’d like to hear from you for a future round-table discussion. E-mail matthew.hampton@rbi.co.uk