5G, AI, robotics and drones are set to transform winter sports holidays

Promoted by SWNS Media Group
Thursday, 10th October 2019, 7:30 am

With technological advancements accelerating in all walks of life in recent years, it’s no different for the travel industry.

When it comes to the experience of skiing and snowboarding on a holiday, in the 2020s and beyond, we should expect voice activated equipment such as skis boots fastening, tightening, or adjusting their friction by voice command and some skis or boards may even be able to change shape according to a new report released today by Club Med in their annual ski report, The Evolution of the Ski Market - 2019 and Beyond.

With shifts in the global economy, particularly in the last 12 months and growing trends for a range of different holiday experiences, the way in which Brits are booking winter sports holidays and what they are booking, has changed over the course of the last year. While France and Europe stay the firm favourite in British minds, people are willing to travel further afield, and explore destinations such as Canada, China and even Antarctica. The seventh annual Club Med ski report, entitled The Evolution of the Ski Market - 2019 and Beyond, this year explores ongoing trends and developments into the winter sports market.

Future of Skiing

Together with futurologist Dr Ian Pearson, the Club Med report reveals that by the 2030s, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and blended, mixed reality (XR) will be commonplace. Dr Pearson anticipates that we will likely see some convergence of computer game technology, virtual world design and fabrications, and shared VR Resorts, holodeck style by the 2030s.

When looking into what might be in store for future ski resorts, the report shows that there will be a mixture of amazing natural scenery and the best of human and AI imagination. Any physical ski run could be enhanced by virtuality, using XR goggles or even active contact lenses to create fully immersive high-resolution 3D imagery.

The report goes on to say that simulators will be able to generate the same experiences as real runs, manipulating the ‘ground’ under the skier as they ski over the virtual terrain, and using active skin connections to the nervous system to create sensations directly, generating a convincing full sensory experience. Groups of friends will be able to holiday and ski together, but each can still have a personalised experience, with what they see and feel customised to their preferences.

The Club Med survey results show that over a quarter of people expect skis that can change shape or friction under voice control, as well as electronic fabrics that can harvest and store solar power or change colour or thermal or shape properties.

Dr Pearson anticipates that guests may also use VR to try out skiing or snowboarding at a new resort before they go. Some might be totally virtual using imaginary resorts, but some might link to real resorts and real runs, with real-time information recreating the same environment to make the experience as realistic as possible. With full links to the nervous system by the 2030s and into the brain by 2050, it will be almost indistinguishable from real life. Conversing with guests in a resort bar might be an excellent way of deciding whether to go to one resort or another, perhaps from the comfort of a VR suite.

Estelle Giraudeau, Managing Director UK & Northern Europe at Club Med comments “Human interaction remains a key part of the customer experience in the hospitality industry, however with developments of AI and VR and the role they might play for us in the future, coupled with the expansion plans we have as a business, we’ll be thinking about how we can better design our resorts to accommodate for these technological advancements alongside the work carried out by our G.Os.”

The evolution of technology will not just apply to the slopes, but augmented reality will also be able to personalise interior décor, changing appearance of fabrics and walls, adding displays or artwork to any surface, changing wallpapers or fabric designs. Fully immersive 3D entertainment could be controlled by a mixture of gesture and voice recognition in the 2020s, even emotion and thought recognition by 2050.

Booking behaviours

The report shows that people are continuing to book winter sports holidays with 59% of skiers and snowboarders booking two or more trips in the past year alone, despite any doubt on travel decisions cast by the current socio-economic situation. However, holidays are increasingly being planned and locked in further in advance to protect against any unwanted surprises like currency fluctuations. 41% of those polled booked their winter sports holiday between six and 12 months in advance, with a further 38% booking over a year before departing.

Club Med’s research shows that almost half (44%) of people choose a resort based on value for money, 22% want to have all their amenities on site and almost one in five (18%) opt for luxurious accommodation. Club Med is capitalising on this opportunity by offering the best of both worlds and new for the 2019 / 2020 winter season will be the luxury Grand Massif Samoëns Morillon chalets-apartments, the latest addition to the brand’s Exclusive Collection.

In 2018, 17% of Brits surveyed said that they stayed in an all-inclusive resort and in the findings from this year’s ski report reveals that figure has risen to 29% - a 70% year on year increase - with the research showing that the all-inclusive model has become the most popular accommodation type for ski and snowboard holidays. Half board and full board fall into second and third place respectively, while catered chalets represent just 8% of people’s accommodation according to the survey. Significantly, 61% of people said they are more likely to book an all-inclusive holiday in light of Brexit – an increase of 190% compared to the research commissioned this time last year.

Estelle Giraudeau, Managing Director UK & Northern Europe at Club Med comments, “We are already seeing a growth in our customer base and therefore people booking premium all-inclusive ski holidays for the coming winter with an increase of 11% revenue compared to last year. Given the current socio- economic situation, it appears that more people than ever before are wanting to book this type of holiday and in the next two years, Club Med plans to open five resorts across Europe, North America and Asia, including Alpe d’Huez, Grand Massif Samoëns Morillon Chalets- Apartments and La Rosière in France, Québec Charlevoix in Canada and Thaiwoo in China at the heart of the Olympic Village. We strive to offer our guests the very best of the premium all-inclusive holiday.”

Guaranteed snow conditions are also at the forefront of holidaymakers’ minds when looking to book a winter sports holiday. 80% are taking into consideration average snowfall with a further 30% looking at the variety of slopes, 27% consider the size of the ski domain and nearly one in five (19%) factor in the altitude of the resort. All European Club Med mountain resorts are located in a ski domain which offers skiing and snowboarding over 2,000 meters altitude, with some of their most popular resorts including Alpe d’Huez, Les Arcs Panorama and Val Thorens Sensations. Of those surveyed, almost three in five (59%) also ensure they book a resort which offers glacier skiing.

Destinations

This year’s annual ski report has shown that the French Alps are still proving to be the most popular destinations for Brits, with over a third (33%) booking a holiday here this year, showing an increase of 18% year on year. With cheaper flights and destinations closer to home, flying to the French Alps is continuing to be a great winter sports escape. In the past 12 months alone, there has been a 50% increase in people searching for ‘French Alps’ on Google.

Other popular destinations that Brits are booking this year are Switzerland (28%), Austria (20%), Italy (14%), Canada (12%), USA (10%) and Japan (6%). In terms of destinations that people want to visit in the next five years, Switzerland (40%) comes out on top closely followed by Canada (34%) and France (25%). 6% of British holidaymakers even said that the Antarctica is a destination they’d like to try out – though ski slopes are still only a distant hope for the world’s wildest continent.

Estelle Giraudeau, Managing Director UK & Northern Europe at Club Med comments, “With Brits being prepared to travel further afield we are excited to be opening our brand-new Club Med resort in the Canadian region of Québec. With one of the most consistent rates of high snowfall and a wide variety of slopes catering for all abilities, we are encouraged to see that so many Brits say they would like to go to Canada in the next five years.”

With the strength of the pound proving to be turbulent over the course of the last 12 months, people are more money conscious that ever. The report unveils that value for money is the overall most important factor when choosing a destination and resort. France comes out on top in the research for being the best value country for skiing and snowboarding. The resort where holidaymakers spend the least outside of accommodation is Morzine in France (£452 per person) with St Moritz proving to be the destination where people spend the most outside of the accommodation at £770 per person. When it comes to spending habits on winter sports holidays, on average, people spend the most amount of money on food and drinks (£577), followed by ski and snowboard equipment (£283), transport (£271) and après-ski (£267).

Health & Wellbeing

Spending time in the great outdoors plays an important part in a person’s state of mind, as fresh air coupled with being in nature are thought to be important in keeping the mind alert and stimulated. With this in mind, the report reveals that almost nine in ten (89%) of people cite that skiing and snowboarding has a positive impact on their mental health, with nearly half (46%) mentioning being outdoors makes them feel more relaxed followed by taking in the scenery (39%), increase in exercise (38%) and being surrounded by vast open spaces (35%). Half of those polled state that they feel calmer on a winter sports holiday.

At the very heart of a winter sports holiday is physical exercise with skiing and snowboarding being an aerobic endurance activity. 56% of those polled said they do more exercise on a winter sports holiday than a beach holiday, with almost three quarters (73%) skiing and snowboarding for four hours or more (on average) a day while on holiday.

When it comes to having a holiday digital detox, three in five (61%) people admit to spending less time on social media on a winter sports holiday compared to a sun holiday, with women spending even less time on social media platforms than men. A further 46% have been on or have considered going on a holiday for a digital detox. Those aged between 18-24 rank the highest for opting to take a digital detox holiday with over half (57%) having already been on, or contemplated, a tech free trip. This age group are followed by those aged between 35-44 – an indication that people are becoming more conscious than ever about switching off from the hustle and bustle of the digital world.

Estelle Giraudeau, Managing Director UK & Northern Europe at Club Med comments, “We want to ensure our guests have an enjoyable stay and feel rejuvenated whilst staying at our resorts. From this winter in Alpe d’Huez and Les Arcs Panorama, we are going to be offering guests a new ski and wellness experience. The experience will allow guests to change between half days on the slopes and half days of relaxation with activities such as yoga, fitness, swimming and Spa. We will also be offering a whole host of additional activities from a meditation programme through to Nordic walking and rail sledding so our guests can maximise a range of non-ski and snowboard occupations while on holiday.”

Experience

The Club Med report also explores how fashion plays an important part in the lead up to a holiday. The survey shows that 45% of people agree that looking stylish on the slopes is more important to them than being good at skiing or snowboarding. Over a third (36%) of people admit to thinking about their winter holiday wardrobe three months in advance of their departure date, and 33% of those surveyed said they researched and followed winter sports clothing trends in advance of going on a winter sports holiday. This is in comparison to sun holiday fashion where only 23% say they follow wardrobe trends.

People are prepared to spend more on their clothes too, with over a third (36%) spending between £150-£300 on a new winter sports holiday wardrobe every year. Almost 20% of people are spending up to £500 a year on their winter sports wardrobe showing that fashion also plays an important part in the overall holiday experience.

While this part might be more style of substance, Brits are also eager to learn new skills on holidays, with more than two in five citing they learnt three or more new skills on holiday in the past five years – with skiing ranking the highest (38%), closely followed by snowboarding (31%), swimming (23%), cooking (17%) and learning a language (16%).

To view the full Club Med report please visit: https://www.clubmed.co.uk/reports/ski-report-2020