When it comes to ski holidays, traditional operators are still winning the battle against dynamic packaging providers.

On Holiday Group chief executive Steve Endacott said most holidays sold are the traditional seven-night trips, and local accommodation providers stick to the established weekend changeover days.

He believes there are opportunities in the ski dynamic packaging market, although less on the short-break side: “You can dynamically package to use a wider range of regional airports or to get low seat prices if you book early.”

This also means clients can avoid undesirable flying times and coach transfers.

Paul Cowley, sales and marketing director of Resort Hoppa, which launched its Ski Hoppa transfer service early this year, is more optimistic.

“People going skiing are, by nature, more adventurous,” he said. “The traditional players now offer their own in-house flights or a low-cost carrier, so the way programmes are put together has changed. They also used to be one-size-fits-all but they have now come up with the stock to fit what the customer is asking for.”

However, traditional operators remain unconcerned and cite transfers as a bonus to a traditional package.

“You can be going into very hostile environments,” said Crystal Ski product and marketing director Gareth Crump. “What happens if you lose your luggage or you need snow chains for the rented car?”

There’s also the need for resort reps. Club Med UK head of sales Steve O’Loughlin said growth in the market for traditional operators demonstrates that people don’t want the hassle of dynamic packaging.

“This winter, [our sales] are more than 20% up, and that’s not just packages – it’s all-inclusive packages. People say to themselves that it may be £1,000 for a week but it’s all done for me and I get the resort and destination I want.”

O’Loughlin added that although Club Med is often approached to sell short-stay ski holidays, it will only do so if there is space.

“It’s part of the service but it’s not increasing. Also, when we tell [customers] about the flight times with a reputable charter and they add everything up they realise it’s best to go with a traditional operator such as Club Med or Inghams.”

The long-established players also claim they have access to the best hotels and chalets. “Access to decent bedstock by the pistes is extremely important and we do have a good supply of it,” said Crystal Ski’s Crump.

“People are booking with tour operators because we have the product and the best price. People try dynamic packaging because they think they can find
a better deal and then realise they can’t.

“You end up paying more money and staying in accommodation that isn’t near to the slopes. There are exceptions, but generally people prefer to have the security and someone to turn to if things go wrong,” Crump added.

Where he does acknowledge some change in the market is the growing trend among Brits towards buying apartments and chalets in ski resorts and using them regularly or lending them to friends and family.

Dynamic packaging for ski holidays: the pros and cons

The pros

  • Dynamic packaging offers potentially better margins for agents, especially for niche products or where they can’t earn commission selling ski packs for a traditional package operator.

  • It offers greater flexibility for consumers, such as departures from regional airports and better flight times.

  • Agents can show off local knowledge and offer a more personal service by tapping into local transfer services.

  • Consumers can sometimes book to travel during peak periods late in the season.

The cons

  • There is no back-up if anything goes wrong in resort, whereas operators offer in-resort services.

  • Package holidays offer access to good accommodation in high-up resorts near the piste. Tour operators often contract accommodation five years in advance.

  • Transfers can be difficult to arrange and expensive.

  • It is time-consuming, often with little reward.

Sample package

Holiday Brokers offers seven nights in Chamonix from £240 January 12 2008, based on four people sharing a studio. EasyJet return flights from Luton to Geneva start at £52.98 per person.

A2B Transfers charges £34 from Geneva airport to Chamonix, based on three sharing a taxi in January.

Crystal Ski offers prices three nights’ self-catering in the Maeva La Riviere apartments in Chamonix from £199 per person based on four sharing, including return flights from Gatwick to Geneva and transfers in January.
Club Med offers seven nights in Les Deux Alpes for £885 per person, including flights from Gatwick in March 2008.

Inghams offers seven nights at the Edelweiss and Gurgl in Obergurgl, Austria for £753 in January 2008, including flights and transfers.