On 24 and 25 January, the French mountain industry gathered for its 32nd edition in Chambéry for the Destination Montagnes 2023 show.
After two years in which the show had to adapt to the health crisis (digital version in 2021, postponed to March in 2022), Destination Montagnes 2023 is back this year with a face to face organisation and participation rates almost equivalent to those of the January 2020 edition. In total, 217 French companies attended, meeting 424 tour operators from 53 countries.
With almost 10,660 meetings scheduled over the two days of the show, the French mountain industry once again demonstrated its dynamism and its ability to adapt to different markets.
Destination Montagnes 2023: a French mountain attracting prescribers
With 250 resorts spread over 6 massifs, France is the world’s second largest ski destination, with 53.9 million skier days sold (source: Domaines Skiables de France – 2021/2022 season), and 10 million winter tourists, 7 million of whom practise snow sports.
The Destination Montagnes 2023 show brought together nearly 242 specifiers from 53 countries (77% from Europe, 11% from Israel and the Middle East, 6% from America and 6% from Asia-Pacific and Africa).
Tour operators from Europe remain in the majority, with a strong presence of British tour operators (69 tour operators compared to 46 in 2022) and Dutch tour operators (36 compared to 33 in 2022), who represent nearly 25% of visitors in 2023.
The British market remains very interested in the French mountains, as demonstrated by the turnover of the tour operator Travelfactory in the first quarter of its 2022/2023 financial year, which increased by 50%. These good results are the fruit of “the growth in the number of holidays distributed”, but also the success of the ski+train packages marketed under the Travelski Express brand, including the rail link between London-Saint Pancras and Bourg Saint-Maurice, which could not start operating until the end of January last year because of the travel ban due to the health crisis” (source: Compagnie des Alpes).
In the long-haul markets, the largest delegations in terms of number of tour operators came from India and Israel (13 each), the United States (12 tour operators), the United Arab Emirates (11 tour operators) and Brazil (10 tour operators).
Destination Montagnes 2023: Good results despite unfavourable weather conditions
After the first late snowfalls which slightly disrupted the pre-season in almost all the massifs, “the Christmas holidays were very dynamic”, with a good snow cover and an increase in bookings in the various accommodations”, explains Compagnie des Alpes, which manages the resorts of La Plagne, Les Arcs, Peisey Vallandry, Tignes, Val d’Isère, Les Ménuires, Méribel, Serre Chevalier, Flaine, Samoëns, Morillon and Sixt Fer à Cheval.
“Winters come and go, and this winter has confirmed the adage”. Alexandre Maulin, President of Domaines Skiables de France, reviews the start of the winter season.
During the three-week Christmas holidays (until 8 January),
“THE NUMBER OF VISITORS FELL BY 8% IN ALL THE MASSIFS, WITH FIGURES VARYING GREATLY ACCORDING TO THE SEASONS.”
The heat wave that affected the French massifs between Christmas and New Year was accompanied by several days of rain and a lower than usual rate of opening of the slopes. The return of snow in quantity in the French massifs has allowed the various resorts, and in particular those at medium altitude, to smile again before the expected February holidays, “and a very busy inter-holiday period in January”, explains Alexandre Maulin.
“All the small resorts in the Vosges, the Massif Central, the Jura… have announced their (re)opening. It’s comforting. These small resorts impress me because they have an extraordinary resilience and capacity to adapt”.
For its part, Compagnie des Alpes announced a “good start to the season despite unfavourable weather conditions”. Compagnie des Alpes’ consolidated turnover for the first quarter of its 2022/2023 financial year, and for ski resorts and outdoor activities, amounted to 66.7 million euros, an increase of 6.5% compared to the first quarter of the previous financial year. Revenues from ski lifts in the strict sense of the term, which represent the bulk of the division’s activity, increased by 5.7%. This growth was due to a 1.2% increase in the number of skiers per day and a 4.5% increase in the average revenue per skier per day. And that’s not counting the increase in the number of skiers during the month of January.
At the end of January, the SATA group, which manages the resorts of Alpe d’Huez, Les 2 Alpes and La Grave, recorded a 20% increase in turnover compared to the previous season. “Three main factors explain these good results: the dynamism of the domestic market, a return of foreign customers and a strong appetite for skiing,” explains Anthony Guzman, Marketing Director of the SATA Group.
An expected occupancy rate of 72% for the February holidays.
The February holidays are “very full”, according to Alexandre Maulin, despite an unfavourable calendar with “a rather weak first week”.
The National Observatory of Mountain Resorts has announced the first figures for mountain resorts for the 2023 winter holidays, with a forecast occupancy rate of 72% from 4 February to 3 March 2023.
“Although snow has recently fallen in almost all the massifs, the winter holidays are looking good, with an occupancy forecast of 72% for the massifs as a whole, almost identical to 2022 over the same period, while the 2021-22 season was exceptional after a winter 2020-21 without skiing. The last two weeks of the holiday period, corresponding to zone C, show a forecast increase in occupancy of 7%.
This trend confirms that the mountains know how to offer holidaymakers what they are looking for in winter to escape: skiing and snow sports, but also a change of scenery, fresh air, rejuvenation in a largely unspoilt natural environment, simplicity and reunion. In short, the values of the mountains,” explains Jean-Luc BOCH, President of the ANMSM (National Association of Mountain Resort Mayors).
Confirmed appetite for skiing
“This 2022-2023 season comes with a real appetite for skiing, which was confirmed last winter with a very good attendance. During COVID, many people said ‘skiing is over’. Today the opposite is true,” explains Alexandre Maulin at the Destination Montagnes 2023 exhibition.
The 82% of French people have a positive image of skiing and 60% have learned to ski. These data are particularly important because they contribute to the development of skiing over time. Contrary to certain preconceptions, skiing is (and remains) popular. At least 15% of French people ski every year.
“Unfortunately, some critics accuse us of all the evils of the land. Ski areas occupy 1% of the mountain and urbanisation 1%, i.e. a total of 2% of the territory. This 2% makes it possible to maintain local life and economic activity in the valleys. This model still has a long way to go,” concludes Alexandre Maulin.