The Ski Industry Learns from the Pandemic
Digital Tools Help Ski Resorts Through the Pandemic
Vail Resorts (MTN) and Alterra Mountain Co. are taking the lessons they learned during the 2020-2021 ski season to transform the customer experience for future seasons. As ski resorts worked to implement social distancing rules and capacity restrictions this past winter, they relied heavily on technology.
Resorts implemented virtual ski lift lines, online reservation systems, and more to keep ski mountains running efficiently and safely. These initiatives helped resorts stay afloat during a difficult year for the tourism industry. Vail reported that visits were only down 8.2% this past ski season. Net income was $147.8 million, 28.4% lower than a year ago, largely because of lost revenue from closures at its ski school and restaurants. The travel and tourism industry contracted by 74% last year overall, so ski resorts performed well compared to the sector as a whole.
Vail to Improve Customer Service
As COVID-19 vaccinations become more widely available and pandemic restrictions begin to lift, Vail Resorts and other ski companies plan to continue using the systems they built during the pandemic. For example, Vail will keep using some of the technology it implemented to enable online reservations for its slopeside restaurants.
Vail Resorts is also quadrupling the size of its customer support team to handle the new initiatives and to help process a backlog of pandemic-related refunds and cancellations. Vail Resorts is also giving its customer service reps the ability to answer questions through text messaging and other digital platforms.
Virtual Ski Lifts Coming Soon
Alterra Mountain Co. also expects technology to play a bigger role in next year’s ski season. The company is investing $30 million to expand its digital capabilities. Alterra’s CEO Rusty Gregory sees a future where guests sign up for a spot in a digital queue to ride gondolas, freeing them up to shop and socialize while they wait. In addition to virtual lift lines, Alterra Mountain wants to make it possible for guests to call for a ski instructor on demand, the way they might hail an Uber (UBER).
The travel and leisure industry faces a variety of unknowns as the pandemic subsides. The ski sector is optimistic that demand will be strong and customer experience will be improved thanks to systems developed during the pandemic.
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