Diversification is the Key for Ski Resort Hotels

By Simon Hudson Endowed Chair in Tourism and Hospitality, University of South Carolina | March 08, 2015

Over the last decade or so, mountain resorts have made significant capital investments in developing alternative activities to downhill skiing and snowboarding. These activities range from the high-energy (like ice-skating, fat biking or snow-tubing) to the more passive (such as moonlit snowshoeing or hot air ballooning).

Three factors are driving this diversification of winter sports. Firstly, an analysis of market trends suggests that an increasing percentage of those who take winter sport holidays on a regular basis do not ski at all. Secondly, even avid skiers are typically skiing less. On average, they are somewhat older and new high-speed lifts enable a skier to attain his/her physical stamina quotient much more quickly. Lastly, climate change is having a negative impact on snowfall for many resorts, especially those at a low altitude.

In fact, the National Resources Defense Council argues that without any intervention, winter temperatures are projected to rise an additional four to 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, with subsequent decreases in snowfall amounts and shorter ski seasons. Given the predicted and increasingly serious effects of climate change after the 2050s, downhill skiing and snowboarding may become niche products in the second half of this century.

As a result of these changes, winter resorts, as well as the hotels operating in them, have realized that they have to offer more activities than just skiing, both on­ and off-snow, and on a recent visit to the ski areas of Utah, I was fortunate enough to stay at a couple of quality hotels responding to these trends.

The first was Washington School House, in Park City, one of the town's newest luxury boutique hotels. The hotel’s website features 18 winter sport activities (see table below), ranging from the high-energy sports of bobsledding, ziplining, heli-sking and dogsledding to the more sedentary activities of yoga, hot-air ballooning and a therapeutic soak in ‘The Homestead Crater’ a 55-foot tall, beehive-shaped limestone rock that nature has hollowed out and filled with 90-96°F water.

Winter Sports Activities at Washington School House in Park City, Utah
(Source: Washingtonschoolhouse.com)

Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.