Dilemma 5: Lack of snow on a ski resort

Valle Centrino is a popular and beautiful ski resort, and it usually receives a good number of visitors during the winter period. Most of them come to ski.

This year however, the amount of snow received has reduced to worrying low levels, and yet the resort has an unusually higher number of guest bookings. This is partly due to the fact that a flu epidemic broke out in the neighboring country, which is also famous for ski resorts. Tourists have therefore re-booked to Valle Centrino to be sure to have safe holiday.

The manager, Pietro Nievallo, has been studying snow levels for three years now, and he is in regular contact with and old school friend who is now employed with the national meteorological institute. The institute was expecting snow levels to be lower, but not this soon!

Senior staff at the resort have sat down together to discuss what can be done. They all agree that producing more snow artificially is going to be quite costly. The problem is that the capacity of the existing snow machines are far from sufficient to cover the ski area with a just acceptable amount of snow. The water for the process is expensive, and new increases in price have been announced.

Yesterday, the manager had had a call from a large group of 50 guests who will arrive in two weeks time. They asked if the resort could provide snowboards, and organized a competition for the group. The manager had to accept, as otherwise he was afraid of a cancellation.

Just recently the resort employed a group of well-qualified ski instructors. The manager of the instructor team is now complaining that the working conditions are entirely inappropriate, and particularly the instructor did not expect to spend most of their time working with the production of artificial snow and handling customer complaints. The manager of the instructors has heard the ski instructors tell the customers that the management is incapable, and that skiing in the neighbor valley is much better.

In the restaurant and bar there are also reports about problems. The sale of alcoholic drinks has gone up, which is good for the turnover, but at the bar manager has had some unpleasant incidents with drunken people. The bar has somewhat changes character from a cosy and relaxing place to a more noisy room, where people want to dance and sing. It is getting more crowded in the restaurant and bar, and the F&B manager does not think that she has enough staff to handle it.

The resort is owned by a large, international hotel group. The CEO will come to visit next week, and with her comes the hotel group‚€™s director of strategic communication. Pietro Nievallo has been mentioned as a candidate for the ‚€œmanager of the year award‚€, as his financial results the previous years were very satisfactory. The CEO is not aware of the problems that Valle Centrino is facing with the low snow levels.


What should Nievallo and his staff do?

Nievallo knows that the new ski instructors have received good training in innovative animation. He sets up a workshop with them, where the aim is to develop other activities for the tourists to engage in. Nievallo finds that the drinking of alcohol in itself is not a problem but that the resort should provide interesting bar and restaurant facilities to accommodate it, for example an icebar. Nievallo wants the ski instructors to develop for example a carnival festival for both kids and adults, alternative sports activities for example tobogganing on other surfaces than snow, ice skating, mountain climbing etc.

Nievallo searches the market for snow machines. It is possible to rent machines for the season, but the price is very high. He decides to rent the machines in order to not to disappoint the many customers that have booked in advance, and he hopes that the business can carry the extra costs. He knows that other measures are necessary, but he wants to postpone the decision to after the awarding process. He thinks that if he is awarded the price, it will be easier for him to get resources for investments.

Nievallo envisages that Valle Centrino has to change character and customer profile over the next years, and he prepares to discuss this with the CEO, when she comes. Before that he wants to set up a strategy meeting with all staff in order to involve them and to reduce the uncertainty, dissatisfaction and rumors. The agenda will be: ‚€œHow to develop Valle Centrino to become an attractive four season tourism facility?‚€

Nievallo realizes that the resort cannot deliver what the customers really come for, and he decides to ask for assistance from the director of strategic communication to set up a communication plan. The snow will not come back in the same amounts as previously, and he has to tell customers that Valle Centrino is still an enjoyable place. For the time being he needs to establish a workable crisis communication plan. Training staff to communicate in new ways is part of it. He is concerned about telling the truth to the customers and still keeping the spirit and the business up.


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This dilemma was created in co-operation with EMTM master students as part of a course in ‚€œStrategic communication in tourism‚€ at the University of Southern Denmark. (about EMTM: www.emtmmaster.net)