Skiing is becoming a more popular holiday option. Photo: Supplied.
Club Med Southern Africa has just released their South African Snow Holiday Report – the first of its kind. 

Until now, not much has been researched or made available on South Africans’ snow holiday behaviours and trends. And while it is difficult to ascertain the exact number of South Africans going on snow holidays across the globe, from a Club Med-only perspective, the brand has seen the amount of South Africans booking international snow holidays (with Club Med) increasing steadily each year. When looking at Club Med’s Winter 2017 season, they achieved a 29% growth compared to 2016. 

Olivier Hannaert, MD of Club Med Southern Africa, notes that the goal with this report is to: educate more South Africans on snow holidays; debunk any myths related to snow holidays; and ultimately, get more South Africans booking snow holidays and ensuring that this number continues to increase year on year.  “This report provides information that’s specifically relevant to South Africans and is something we’re extremely excited to launch. We hope you’ll find the content and insights interesting and – most importantly – that it inspires you to take a snow holiday in the near future,” says Hannaert.

The findings

South Africans and snow holidays
When it comes to South Africans picking holidays or destinations for a trip, more often than not a sun or beach destination will come out on top, as these are “familiar” options. Mauritius is a firm favourite for South Africans, considering its great weather for most of the year and the convenient four-hour flight to get there. Many other sun destinations follow hot on its heels.

Snow holidays are foreign (both literally and figuratively) to a large portion of the South African market. There are many possible reasons for this, including the fact that South Africans do not see snow (unless in the Lesotho/Drakensburg region), which means a snow holiday is not top-of-mind. A snow holiday also seems like a lot more of “a mission” with a lot more prep and planning required than, say, a beach holiday or a trip to the bush. 

There are also misconceptions around the cost of snow holidays. Many South Africans look at the DIY snow holiday option – in putting their trip together themselves - which becomes very costly very quickly; and they are perhaps not aware of the fact that an all-inclusive package is the more cost-effective option. And finally, there is perhaps a bit of apprehension around the cold weather. (How on earth will I keep warm?)

Having said all of that, South Africans are an adventurous bunch who are keen to try new things, and so a snow holiday should fit perfectly into this spirit.

Afriski Mountain Resort in Lesotho is one snow destination close to home that South Africans visit either to try their hand at skiing, snowboarding or other snow sports, or simply to see and experience snow. 

Afriski in numbers
11 000 day visitors during the 2016 winter season (June, July and August 2016)
Of which about 60% actually skied or took part in some form of snow activity 
And roughly 24 000 bed nights sold during that season (7 600 guests who stayed for three or four nights)
2015-2016 saw a 10% increase of guests staying at Afriski which is testament to the fact that more South Africans are entertaining the idea of a snow holiday.

There are many factors that drive South Africans to choose snow holidays, including:
They are keen to try something new and exciting
They want to see snow for the first time 
 They are snowboarding or skiing enthusiasts and keen to get back on their board or skis
 They are interested in an alternative honeymoon option 
 They are looking for an outdoor holiday
They want an “alternative” and exciting new option for a group holiday (with family, colleagues or friends)

Google search stats
  • The six most searched for snow holiday-related words on Google are:
  • Tiffindell ski resort 
  • Afriski packages 
  • Ski Italy 
  • Ski holidays 
  • Livigno ski 
  • Club Med ski 
-May, June and July are the times of year where we see the highest amount of snow holiday-related Google searches (by South Africans)
-Gauteng, Western Cape, Northern Cape and KZN are where the most snow holiday-related Google searches come from
-About 61% of this research is done via phone and 38.6% is done via desktop

The popularity of the snow holiday experience – a growing trend
Skiing and snow holidays were arguably once an elite and exclusive pastime, but, in recent years snow holiday culture has featured prominently in film, music, interiors and fashion – transforming it into an experience that’s more accessible than ever before. 
While snow holidays are typically assumed to be for snow sport enthusiasts, they are becoming extremely popular as a holiday option for those looking for a wellness, health and relaxation retreat. 

“That may sound surprising, but there is so much to do at a snow-filled destination than just ski or snowboard. Whether its shopping, indulging in the resort’s spa treatments, hopping on and off chair lifts to discover the best views of the region for the perfect Instagram picture, tobogganing, snow-shoe walking, enjoying the Jacuzzi in the snow, or simply sitting at the fireplace with a good book with majestic mountains spread out in front of you – there’s so much to offer everyone,” Hannaert adds.

More South African families are opting for snow holidays, too. They are looking for resorts that cater to the whole family. Club Med offers the perfect solution for families as children stay free at select snow resorts! This includes daily ski or snowboarding lessons (for the little ones and adults) with professional instructors every day and a variety of in-resort and out-of-resort activities, allowing the whole family to enjoy the snow and the slopes.
Club Med has also seen a growing trend where sales teams, CEO’s and business owners are trading boardrooms for snowboards and spa days for ski’s to shift their conferencing and incentive trips to progress with the ever changing times and the world of opportunities (quite literally) available to them. 

Voluntarily spending time in below-freezing temperatures may not sound conducive to business brainstorming or ideal as an incentive, but you'd be surprised at how inspiration can strike atop a chair lift heading from one ski slope to the next; or how business relationships are strengthened while sipping on a chocolat chaud during a spontaneous après ski session, as the sun sets over the mountain. There is evidence that such informal encounters with like-minded people can be the key to unlocking some of the most valuable business conversations any sales teams, business owners and top management executives are likely to have.
Whether it’s a corporate group or a big bunch of friends, a snow holiday offers something so different, and its magic is enhanced when experienced in a group. Groups also enjoy better discounts when it comes to snow holiday bookings, particularly when booked at least six to 12 months in advance.

Globally there is high demand for snow holidays, which means snow holiday resorts are also in need. Club Med has also made a concerted effort to try and make snow holidays more accessible to a larger part of the population, and with over 20 all-inclusive Club Med snow resorts around the world at present, and one new snow resort opening each year, Club Med is answering this demand and providing a wider variety for the South African traveller who is keen to try something new, somewhere new.

With snow resorts across Europe and Asia, the ranking in terms of where South Africans are booking to go on snow holidays with Club Med is as follows:
1. French Alps
2. Italian Alps
3. Swiss Alps
4. Japan
5. China

Most popular Club Med snow resorts during the Winter 17 and Winter 18 season:
1. Val Thorens Sensations – French Alps
2. Grand Massive Samoëns – French Alps
3. Val d’Isere – French Alps
4.Cervinia – Italian Alps
5. Tignes – French Alps
6.Peisey Vallandry – French Alps
7. Valmorel – French Alps 
8. Pragelato Vialattea – Italian Alps

Snow holiday demands
These are some of the factors that South Africans look out for when they go on a snow holiday:

The quality of snow
Higher altitude resorts are proving most popular as there is more snow in these areas. The snow at these altitudes is also better for skiing, snowboarding or general snow sport activities. 

Short distance to the slopes
South African snow holidaymakers are looking for resorts close to the slopes, with major preference for ski-in ski-out resorts – no need to waste time and energy shuttling to the slopes with heavy equipment. 

The number of slopes
With so many incredible snow destinations around the world, South Africans are spoilt for choice. Apart from location, big deciding factor when it comes down to picking a snow holiday is the number of slopes (also known as ski trails or ski runs) within an area. The bigger the ski domain, the more ski runs of varying difficulty – from green to black – it’s likely to have. One of the biggest and most popular is Les Trois Vallées (in the French Alps).

Authentic experience
Snow holidays provide a truly authentic experience with a cultural exchange like no other. While 
they are generally linked to snow sport enthusiasts, there’s a whole lot more they have to offer the average Joe who may not be interested in strapping on a pair of skis, but rather, who may just be looking for a new experience-of-a-lifetime. 

More South Africans opting for all-inclusive snow holiday holidays

When it comes to snow holidays there is a fair amount of planning that would need to be done. It is for this reason that more South Africans are opting for snow holidays that are all-inclusive, letting the experts take care of it. All-inclusive is also the more affordable and hassle-free way to experience a snow holiday – which really will be a holiday of a lifetime!

Why all-inclusive?

Everything is taken care of
What better way to enjoy a snow holiday than having everything covered and paid for in advance before you leave SA? Imagine not having to deal with organising your flights, transfers, accommodation, all meals all day, all drinks all day, entertainment, activities and sports, ski or snowboard hire, ski boot and helmet hire, ski pass, daily ski or snowboarding lessons with professional instructors, and child care facilities (if travelling with little ones). “This is a big element that sets Club Med apart from other travel brands, particularly when it comes to snow holidays. We know everything there is to know about the perfect snow holiday; we take care of everything. That carefree feeling ahead of an exhilarating holiday is something money can’t buy,” Hannaert notes.

Exchange rate-proof holidays
With the unpredictability of the rand, more South Africans are looking for travel packages that don’t come with any surprises or hidden costs, including nasty foreign exchange surprises! If booking an all-inclusive Club Med snow holiday, once you have booked and paid your deposit, the price is locked in and won’t be affected negatively should the rand take a dive. When you leave for your holiday, you could quite literally leave your wallet at home. When you arrive at the resort, all meals and drinks are at your disposal – all day. You don’t need to worry about converting from rands to euros (which we are all too familiar with when travelling) to figure out how much that chocolat chaud is going to set you back. It’s all included in what you pay upfront. This peace of mind is a big value-add on top of the vibe and one-of-a-kind holiday experience Club Med provides.

A snow holiday is really one of the most magical and memorable kind of holidays South Africans are likely to experience. With more snow holiday destinations easily accessible now more than ever before, South Africans are spoilt for choice when it comes to satisfying their desire to try new things and experiences.