With so many sophisticated Web sites
touting ski vacation deals, is there room for travel agents to sell
ski holidays -- and make money doing it? There is, according to
experts in the market, as long as retailers target the right market
and work with the right suppliers.
In fact, many
destination ski resorts offer a wealth of off-slope activities and
services, which increases the potential for lucrative bookings and
and fine-dining restaurants -- complete with extensive wine lists
-- are increasingly available, as are easy-to-learn sports for
nonskiers such as lift-assisted snow tubing, snowshoeing and ice
snowmobiling, dog-sledding and horse-drawn sleigh rides, once
considered exotic, are now becoming mainstream.
The key to making
money on selling winter sports is to bundle as many components into
a commissionable package as possible, rather than just focusing on
selling ski, said Ilene Kamsler, president of the Colorado Hotel
and Lodging Association.
agents dont realize how many components of a ski package may be
commissionable, Kamsler said.
that travel agents spend time qualifying clients to determine
whether they will be renting equipment, taking lessons or putting
the children into ski school, then check with the resort to see
agents can book components not associated with the resort, such as
the use of a rental car outfitted to carry skis and
Resorts vary as
to the aspects of a booking on which they will pay commissions --
ranging from accommodations only to the complete vacation package
-- so Kamsler encourages agents to develop relationships with
suppliers in order to discern which offer the best
Agents should not
be daunted by the volume of packaged specials available online,
start sorting through the accommodations, especially if theyre not
experienced with booking condos, it can be complicated for them to
figure out on their own, said Kamsler.
There are several
strategies travel agents can employ to get in on the action, even
if they dont know much about the sport.
can designate one agent to learn the lingo and specialize in the
market, while others for whom that approach is not practical can
use the resorts as information sources.
dont have to be experts on every ski destination, said Steve
Janicek, general manager of Vail Cascade Resort and Spa in
Colorado, noting that most top resorts have invested significant
dollars into their Web sites to educate both travel agents and
Booking ski is
not like booking a five-day stay at the beach, he said. There are
lots of moving parts, and resort staff are trained on all aspects
of the vacation, such as knowing which properties are
ski-in/ski-out, arranging ski rentals and lessons, and selling lift
While ski resorts
offer plenty of standard packages, Janicek encourages agents to
customize packages to suit their clients needs. A resort might sell
a three-night package that an agent can customize by adding spa or
The ski industry
is so different now than it was even 10 years ago, and there is a
great opportunity for agents to drive their ticket prices higher
and increase their commissions, Janicek said.
have the air deals
One of the best
ways to boost commissions on ski vacations is to book an
air-inclusive package through a ski tour operator, according to
David Tanner, president of Rocky Mountain Vacations in Glenwood
A typical ski
tour operator will have three or four wholesale contracts with
major carriers, particularly the ones that fly into smaller
airports like Eagle, Aspen and Jackson Hole, he said.
contracts, its hard for an agent to get a good fare, but as long as
its bundled into a package, the consumer can get a better
nearly all packages booked through members of the Ski Tour
Operators Association are customized, Tanner said that the air
component can even be an open-jaw ticket that arrives at one
gateway and departs from another.
This kind of
flexibility accommodates the increasingly popular ski safari
vacation, whereby clients, for example, can fly into Aspen, ski the
four Aspen mountains for a few days, drive to Vail for a few more
days of skiing and then fly home from Denver.
reporter Felicity Long, send e-mail to [email protected].