After specialising in ski resort transfers for 14 years, Ski Lifts has moved into the beach market with new brand Sea Lifts. Abra Dunsby finds out what the company offers and how it hopes to work more closely with agents.
Ski Lifts began life 14 years ago, founded by snow-loving Nick Hadfield in the French Alps resort of Morzine as a one-man band. “It was just him and a van then,” says Phil Arger, the transfer specialist’s commercial manager.
Since then, things have progressed rapidly. The award-winning transfer company is now an aggregator across “every ski country in Europe”, from Norway to France, with plans to increase its existing presence in North America and Canada.
It transfers 60,000 passengers every winter, with 65% of its business landing in Geneva.
Its products range from “bums-on-seats” budget shared transfers on buses, to private cars, executive transfers and helicopter journeys.
“If rolling into a ski resort in a stretch Hummer is what your client wants, we can provide that,” says Arger. “We genuinely offer whatever the client wants, which is part of our USP. And a transfer going wrong can get your holiday off to the wrong start; we’re here to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Half of the operator’s business comes through the trade, with tour operator clients including Ski Independence, Crystal and Skiworld.
For third-party agents, the options are to white-label the Ski Lifts website and earn 10% commission on all conversions, or to book with Ski Lifts at net rates of 10% less than public-facing prices, allowing the agent to mark up as they wish.
The company’s sister brand, Sea Lifts, was created more recently to cater to the summer market. Its origins were in transfers to Lourdes for religious travellers on pilgrimages, but the brand has now expanded to offer transfers from 30 airports along the French Riviera, northern Spain and Portugal.
Next in the pipeline will be a golf-specific product, to tailor to its growing number of golfing clients.
“The golf market is a similar demographic to the ski market in many ways, in that you get lots of groups and equipment,” says Arger.
“The difference is in the logistics, with most clients taking multiple journeys: from the airport to a hotel, from the hotel to a golf course, from the hotel to another golf course, for example. Clients average about six legs per trip, so it’s a real package,” he adds.
Once launched to the wider market, Arger believes Golf Lifts along with Sea Lifts have the potential to outgrow Ski Lifts within the next two years.
While Ski Lifts and Sea Lifts already supply the likes of HolidayTaxis and SunTransfers, Arger explains there is now a desire to work directly with third-party agents, particularly on complicated and high-end bookings.
“We deal directly with all of our suppliers, rather than farming it out to a third-party like some of our competitors, and we also encourage agents and operators to call us and book over the phone. You can’t beat talking to somebody if you want a bespoke service,” he says.
And with executive and VIP transfers up 65% for the company this year compared to last year, Arger suggests agents shouldn’t underestimate what clients will pay to ensure a smooth start to their holiday.
“A lot of people are prepared to pay an extra €100 to make a trip more special,” he points out.
Live pricing means prices are often keener than through other providers, and later this summer agents will also be able to book both ski and summer products on one system.
Arger hints that river cruise and city break products are next on the horizon. But whichever markets this ambitious operator moves into next, Arger insists quality and service will be paramount: “We’re the best at what we do when it comes to ski, and we aim to deliver exactly the same service for golf, cruise or city breaks.”