Advance sales on holidays to date is close to €10 million, writes travel writer Clodagh Dooley
My colleague and Editor-in-Chief of Travel Extra, Kevin Flanagan, has travelled on ski holidays with Irish family-owned tour operator Topflight for many years now, and always looks forward to the annual trip. And we’ve missed hearing his tales from the slopes, almost as much as he missed being there last year, having had to cancel his 2020 ski trip due to Covid.
So we’re delighted to hear that, on the back of an extremely difficult year for the travel industry, Topflight are looking ahead with a strong sense of optimism and positivity. While Irish customers remain cautious about booking overseas travel for this summer, Topflight are reporting exceptionally high demand for ski holidays next winter season, with advance sales to date of close to €10m.
Usually launching the following season each March, the company went on sale five months early to accommodate those customers wishing to defer their holidays from the current season, due to the uncertainty around Covid-19 travel restrictions. However, the majority of sales have been new bookings.
Anthony Collins, Topflight CEO, says, “As we emerge from what has been a most challenging year for the company and the travel industry as a whole, we look to the future with renewed confidence based on early-season ski sales. The interest and bookings to date have been phenomenal. Having understandably missed out during the 2020/21 season, many of our customers across Ireland and the UK are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to get safely back to the slopes with family and friends, or to see their children experience a ski holiday for the first time.”
So what early trends is the operator seeing for next season?
Traditional ski resorts are the first choice
In terms of destinations, it’s Austria. The Irish have traditionally always loved Austria and early sales show it’s still the frontrunner. While Italy, France and Andorra are performing well, it’s the traditional Irish favourite resorts such as Söll, Westendorf and Zell am See that are seeing the strongest demand.
Skiers are looking to be pampered
After two summers of self-catering holidays at home, Irish skiers are looking for some pampering. Bookings to Topflight’s hotels offering half board are the option of choice. 4- and 5-Star properties are seeing the highest percentage increase, suggesting people simply want to treat themselves.
Northern Irish market more confident than Dublin or Cork
In terms of year-on-year increases in bookings, Belfast is out-performing Dublin and Cork. This may be a direct correlation to the speed of vaccine rollout in Northern Ireland and the ripple effect giving customers the confidence to make bookings. The company is also seeing a surge in bookings from England where vaccine levels are similar to Northern Ireland.
Increase in family skiing
Traditionally a popular date, the February 2022 school holidays are already on track to be an exceptionally busy period. Topflight’s customers are saying that, although they have spent additional time with their families over the last year, they want to give the family something really special to look forward to and a ski holiday fits the bill.
Christmas at home
Christmas and New Year are selling well but there’s a definite trend towards a traditional Christmas 2021 at home with friends and family. Anthony Collins says, “Speaking to our customers, there’s a desire for people to spend Christmas at home in 2021, due to missing so many special events over the past year.”
Resilience within the school groups ski market
Topflight is the largest provider of ski school trips in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Irish markets. Due to the value that schools put on the ski group experience for winter 21/22, there are now many schools that will operate two trips next year. There are those who missed out last season and postponed to next season, as well as the additional group of non-exam year students.
A rising word in holiday terminology is milestone holidays
Topflight is hearing the term ‘milestone holiday’ over and over again. This term has been around for many years but since the various lockdowns and restrictions, it has gained popularity. Alongside the desire to have something to look forward to, Topflight’s clients are also anxious that they get to celebrate the missed birthdays and anniversaries, and it appears that many of these will be celebrated on the slopes next season.
In conclusion, the company is predicting a very buoyant ski market for next season. If things continue as the first quarter has, the company is on track for an exceptional season. Prices are currently broadly in line with previous seasons, but the advice is to book early to secure that special holiday as prices are very unlikely to fall closer to the start of the ski season.
Of course, the company will continue to monitor the Covid-19 situation and all holidays come with Topflight’s Book with Confidence Guarantee to ensure customers are protected in the event their holiday is impacted by Covid-19. However, Topflight’s feeling, alongside their European partners, is that 2021/22 will be a special season on the slopes and they look forward to once again being there for their customers.
All of us at Travel Extra have our skis ready!
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