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Saturday, 27 October, 2001, 12:58 GMT 13:58 UK
Skiers buck declining travel trends
Ski jumper
Many skiiers have not been put off travelling
By the BBC's James Cove

The war on terror has caused a severe downturn in the travel industry as people stay at home, unsure about the risks abroad - but skiers and snowboarders seem not to share the general mood.

Bookings are 10% up on this time last year, though the US market has been badly hit.


Before the attacks we were very hopeful that many Americans would be coming to the Alps this winter, but now we know they will not

Daniel Luggen,
Zermatt
Immediately after the events of 11 September bookings for skiing holidays fell by as much as a third.

It seemed the industry was in for a catastrophe, but now large numbers are booking holidays in the Alps this winter.

October and November are traditionally when Britain's 900,000 skiers and boarders plan their winter trips to the mountains and though many are nervous about travelling by air, the latest figures show that bookings are up on the same period last year.

However, the number of people going to ski in North America has dropped substantially and there is little expectation that business will pick up.

Americans not coming

Also few Americans are expected to cross the Atlantic this winter.

Daniel Luggen, the marketing director of the Swiss resort of Zermatt, was in the US on a marketing drive on 11 September.

Ski lift
Many look forward to holidays for an entire year
"Before the attacks we were very hopeful that many Americans would be coming to the Alps this winter, but now we know they will not," he said.

"Many do not want to fly in America, let alone cross the Atlantic."

The American ski industry was expecting a bumper year with strong early-season interest from British skiers and great hopes for next February when the focus of the skiing world will be on Utah for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

Now bookings to North America have all but dried up.

Some 20% of internal American flights have been cancelled and this will make getting to ski resorts even more difficult.

Too much hassle

Peter Hardy, the co-editor of the Good Skiing and Snowboarding Guide, says he doesn't believe the British are too scared to fly to America, they just don't want the hassle.

"With three-hour check-ins and all the trouble of an internal flight, people are turning their backs on North America. The US market has been hit very badly by 11 September and subsequent events."


Of course they are worried about world events, but some feel if the situation gets worse it may be the safest place to be

Vanessa Haines,
Ski Glub of GB
BBC News Online has found that all the major UK tour operators are reporting an increase in bookings compared to the same period last year.

This is in stark contrast to what is happening in the rest of the travel business.

Crystal Holidays claims a 25% increase and, even allowing for the fact that it is in their interests to talk up the situation, the prospects for the season appear good.

Mary Stuart-Miller from Crystal says her company is "actually quite surprised at the level of interest".

Vanessa Haines from the Ski Club of Great Britain, a non-profit making organisation that has 27,000 members, says skiers and boarders are a tough lot.

Vanessa Haines, Ski Club of Great Britain
Vanessa Haines: Skiers are a tough lot
"Of course they are worried about world events, but many spend all year looking forward to their holiday in the mountains and some feel if the situation gets worse it may be the safest place to be."

One significant change to winter sports holidays caused by the current war against terrorism is the number of people planning to drive to the Alps.

It takes eight hours to drive to the main resorts in the French Alps with motorway virtually the whole way.

The inconvenience of air travel has increased with longer check-ins and frustrating delays as passengers face additional security searches.

Airline in balance

The fate of Swissair hangs in the balance after it went bankrupt and the sight of people on a scheduled airline being stranded and out of pocket at a moment's notice has put some people off flying.

Tignes in France
European resorts are not suffering as badly as US ones
But despite this optimism the skiing industry is unlikely to hit its target of taking one million people on a winter sports holiday this season.

The organisers of The Daily Mail Ski and Snowboard Show, which opens at London's Olympia this weekend, say they fear the uncertainty and worries of a world-wide recession will have an effect.

And despite the buoyancy in the winter market, many of the resorts in the Alps who rely on walkers and climbers in the summer months are fearful that their summer visitors will not be as determined and resilient as their winter counterparts.

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Vanessa Haines, Ski Club of Great Britain
"Many spend all year looking forward to their holiday"
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