Ski Destinations See Recovery Faster Than All Lodging Verticals

Sojern analyzes travel intent and bookings to ski destinations in 2020.

October 23, 2020

You’re nearly alone on the top of a gorgeous mountain, ski poles in hand, breathing in the fresh air. The sun is beating down, yet it’s below freezing, not a bit of slush on the ground, just perfect powder to glide through. You’ve got your mask, your goggles, your gloves. While this is the essence of a ski trip, one might even call you socially distanced, or taking safety precautions. And that’s the beauty of skiing and snowboarding–they are naturally less risky in a pandemic environment.

Many ski resorts endured lockdowns as the virus spread. Thus, summers were spent adapting strategies to safely welcome guests and implemented requiring reservations online prior to a trip up the mountain (and barring same-day lift tickets), activating contactless payment, sanitizing the rental equipment, limiting access to indoor activities, serving takeout options, and spacing out lift seating.

A survey conducted by RRC Associates this summer revealed that 93% of respondents felt safe doing dispersed outdoor recreation during the pandemic, leading experts to believe that there should be strong travel intent and bookings to ski destinations. So while lounging in lodge areas and lift riding may look different, outdoor enthusiasts are still flocking to ski destinations, causing a sharper recovery in hotel bookings for ski destinations than the rest of the lodging industry, according to Sojern data.

Sojern identifies ski destinations as cities with hotels within a 50 mile radius of high capacity ski resorts in North America and ski resorts at high elevations in Europe. In the US, ski destinations in southern states continue to do well into October. The decline in other US subregions for bookings is in line with seasonal trending–it's too cold to hike, but too warm to ski. In Canada, we do see a sharper decline.

To paint a clearer picture of the recovery, we compared the chart above to year-over-year volume trends by week. The decline in the US is in line with 2019 seasonal trends; however, Canada’s decline is much sharper. We came very close to 2019 volumes the week of August 30, 2020 (when the dark blue line almost hits the light blue).

After an even sharper booking decline than the US, Europe also shows a better recovery in ski destinations. In both regions, ski destination hotel bookings are higher than the total lodging vertical. French resorts experienced an excellent summer and Scotland is gearing up for what could be one of the busiest winters in years. With restrictions uncertain and flying a potential risk, Europeans may choose destinations that are reachable by train or car. The Alps region in particular–which draws tourists from around the world–may be especially hit, whereas smaller resorts in northern England and Scotland may see increased traffic if people are unable or less willing to leave the country.

Much of the travel volume in countries like Europe, the US, and Canada is expected to be domestic over the ski season. When looking at the drive markets, the US northwest region is especially reliant on long distance travelers (defined as visiting from more than 500 miles away).

As noted previously, Sojern expects the drive market to remain important for the remainder of the year and into 2021. As a travel marketer, this is a key time to get your message in front of  your drive markets, to share your unique offerings and stay top-of-mind, especially as the holiday season approaches.

Sojern data continues to show that while booking lead times are shortening and people are booking their trips closer to departure, travelers are spending more time researching potential destinations and lodging. They are “always on”, and your advertising needs to be too. For ski insights in your area, contact us.

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