The world of travel and the way travel brands interact with their customers continues to rapidly evolve. Social Media and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) are the fundamental methods that allow travel brands to be discovered by consumers without the travel seller investing directly in paid advertising. With Local and Mobile playing an increasingly important role (in some cases a more important role, ski resorts and tour operators working in the ski market need to consider how their mutual customers are using technology to provide more relevant information and sustain relationships with skiers.
SkiTops is the Ski Tour Operators Association. The annual “University” meeting allows all the ski areas update the tour operators on all the latest renovations to their facilities and various improvements to their skiing programs. It is an informative, fun and by all accounts, productive meeting.
Most notably, SkiTops has taken an innovative approach to giving back to the ski community. Instead of producing those lovely logo-festooned specialty advertising items as souvenirs of the event (you know, those tschokes that wind up in the hotel room trash bin when you are packing to leave the conference) SkiTops finds a deserving local charity and not only makes a contribution, but enables all its member to learn more about the cause and make their own contributions.
While I would always like to think my presentation was the highlight of the event, that distinction definitely went to Roy Tuscany‘s casual talk about his High Fives Foundation during an evening event.
High Fives helps athletes that have suffered a life altering injury while participating in winter action sports. The group not only raises awareness for these athletes, but actively assists in raising money and provides grants to assist in rehabilitation.
Two athletes told their stories at the event. The first was Grant Korgan who despite suffering a L-1 burst fracture that left him paralyzed from the waist down in March 2010. With the help of High Fives, Grant is not only walking with the assistance of forearm crutches, but became the first adaptive athlete to reach the South Pole earlier this year.
The second was J2 national champion Jake Hickman who caught an edge during the US National Freestyle Team Selections competition in 2010 and was paralyzed from the T8 level down. Again, with the generous help of High Fives, his goal is now to make the 2013 National Team.
Having known a teenage girl who was paralyzed by a fall while training downhill decades ago, one can only wonder how an organization like High Fives could have changed her life…
71% of High Five’s revenue comes from individual donations, so if you feel so inclined, click here to donate.
My keynote presentation at SKiTops University 2012 covered a lot of territory for an audience that ranged from green circle to double black diamond expertise when it comes to online travel marketing and technologies. For those that were more interested in skiing than the processes involved in selling and supporting ski-related travel, there are plenty of background photos to let them daydream about tuning up their skis and heading for the mountains.
With diverse segments (alpine skiers, snowboarders and cross country skiers) having wildly different demographic, psychographic and lifestyle profiles, selling ski vacations is significantly more challenging than, for example, selling all-inclusive beach holidays.
One beneficial aspect is that the ski industry is large, with specific seasonality. US Ski Areas had over 60 Million skier visits over the 2010/2011 season (the most recent stats available) – an all-time record eclipsing the previous mark set during 2007/2008, prior to the global financial crisis. According to the Ski Industry Association, last year, the combination of Alpine, Snowboard and Cross-County skiers represented nearly 22.1 million total participants. Ski-related retail spending topped $3.4 Billion, despite one of the warmest winters on record.
On a personal note, skiing was my sport of choice through middle school and high school while growing up in Seattle, Washington. Racing for the Crystal Mountain Athletic Club, summer training on the Palmer Glacier at Mt. Hood Summer Ski Camp, and teaching at what was then Ski Acres (now Summit Central at Snoqualmie) for Ullr/Bellevue Ski School occupied winter weekends and vacations of my teenage years.
It was great to meet with all the ski resort sales people and the tour operators that work harder than most can appreciate to see that skiers have great vacations. It is a terrific sport supported by fantastic people who not only care about the business aspects, but the human aspects as well.