Summer in the mountains

Summer on the mountain: asset or liability?

It all seems so logical: The ropeways are there; so are the tourists, and the variable costs are not a problem.

created by Klaus Grabler

That means the summer should really be an additional source of revenues (apart from operators for whom the summer is the main season). And yet, as we all know, it is not quite as simple as that, even though some ropeway operators have been increasingly successful with their summer offerings in the last few years. So what exactly is the problem?

How to get visitors to come to the mountain

The trinity for the summer tourist industry is of course sun, sea and sand. That is something the German Travel Analysis confirms every year and it is not likely to change in the foreseeable future. It is also clear that mountain summer visitors are a different species from the winter clientele. Above all, the former are more price sensitive. That is to be expected as the main objective is to stimulate demand for the room capacities created for the winter, and the simplest way to do that is to lower the prices. At least that is the general strategy in summer for many destinations. On the other hand, visitors who respond to low prices are naturally price-sensitive visitors. And it is not so easy to persuade them to spend as many days as possible on the mountain, especially in view of the many alternative attractions in summer including (sun)bathing. In the last few years, however, the ropeway operators have made increasing progress in attracting first-time mountain visitors.

Tourist passes: to join or not to join?

In the last few years, all-inclusive visitor passes have become an increasingly important factor. Various regions and whole countries are vying with each other with the range of attractions offered and in the process generating additional business for the various facilities at the local level. Visitor interest in such passes is growing, and in many places the offering is highly relevant for the choice of destination. That is not surprising as visitors are provided with a complete program for the week with their holiday booking. All-inclusive visitor passes in the Alps are a positive factor in terms of visitor decisions and subsequent visitor satisfaction. After all, they give visitors a varied holiday experience with numerous positive impressions to take home with them. Whether everything should be free, however, is not so clear. The question of additional revenues generated by these visitor passes has not yet been definitively answered, whereas the increase in the volume of demand is undisputed. That means ropeway companies still have to make their own decision in many cases on whether to join the visitor pass scheme or not. Ropeways are one of the leading attractions in any resort and contribute to the perceived value of the visitor pass. But to what extent the pass impacts the ropeways’ bottom line is still uncertain, although it is clear that additional facilities offered in the resort can lead to an increase in revenues, and businesses stand to benefit from the growth in visitor numbers.

Catering on the mountain

The food and drink offering on the mountain is a major item in the overall package. In the last few years, increasing recognition has been given to the importance of mountain catering for summer visitors. More and more visitors are attracted by the mountain-top bars and restaurants, which are clearly fulfilling the expectations placed in them. It is true to say that gastronomy is now one of the central pillars of the overall mountain experience and thus one of the keys to success for the operator. Businesses must take advantage of the numbers generated and ensure that every visitor is a happy visitor. This is where the atmosphere has a critical role to play. The splendid views and the (apparently) authentic mountain experience are what count – even more than the meal itself.

Nature as an attraction in its own right

What else is needed to keep summer mountain visitors happy? Clearly, visitors who travel to the mountains in summer are looking for one thing in particular: a positive experience of nature. A mountain holiday is normally motivated by the desire for a nature experience, and it is that experience that delivers the strongest impressions. All our polls show that this is where the magic lies. Visitors want to experience the mountains, with their streams and waterfalls, at first hand, and enjoy an intact environment that is not available back home. This phenomenon can be expected to spread in view of the increasing rate of urbanization for the general population.

Natural sights and experiences are accordingly set to pull in the visitors in the long term. In order to deliver a powerful experience, however, it is no longer enough simply to have such natural attractions; they have to be presented, dramatized and made accessible to visitors. Some success has been achieved to date with paths that lead to the most attractive spots and provide spectacular views. And regional catering experiences on the routes also seem to work.

They have the potential to encourage visitors to the resort to go back up the mountain again, which is what it is all about. Fine views and atmosphere, unspoiled nature and peace and quiet are factors that visitors find meaningful. Interestingly enough, the ropeways also make a relatively big contribution to the overall perception of the mountain experience – presumably in their function as an upwardly mobile vantage point in the natural environment. Speaking of the environment, tidiness is also an issue in summer especially. Visitors are looking for unspoiled countryside and are not impressed by litter or locations that leave an untidy impression.

And the target groups?

Which target groups have the potential to generate additional revenues on the mountain? The solution is probably to seek to increase the time spent on the mountain by the visitors already in the resort rather than try to convince visitors who have no desire to spend money on ropeways. At all events, it can be said that educated people are more interested in the mountain experience and also have higher recommendation rates (although there are far fewer of them in the resorts in summer compared with winter). In itself that is not a bad thing; they are doubtless the people who place a greater value on healthy living and sustainability. But again the rule applies: Do not overdo the bargains if you want to filter out the most price-sensitive groups. It is better to attract the visitors to the mountain with (new and) attractive offers. That can be implemented quickly by communicating the attractions to the visitors in the resort. After all, that is where the decisions are taken with regard to the holiday program. So again, information communicated at the local level has significant potential. And, although we obviously will not be able to compete with the winter season, the summer can then be turned from a liability into something of an asset. 

Geschäftsführer der MANOVA GmbH
Mag. Klaus GRABLER - General manager of MANOVA GmbH
Geschäftsführer der MANOVA GmbH

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