The European ski holiday industry is highly fragmented. In the Alps and Pyrenees are some 100,000 chalets and other accommodation units, almost exclusively owner-operated. The ski localities (slopes, ski-lifts, snow-management equipment, etc.) are also largely owner-operated by local land-owners and farmers. This contrasts with the US, where ski resorts are usually owned and managed by large organizations.
Before 1998, skiers visiting from some distance – Scandinavia, the UK, and even the US – had no ready means to discover goods places to go, so relied on package-tour operators who put together the complete holiday of flights, accommodation, ski passes, equipment, insurance and other facilities. The scale efficiencies of these services meant that only about 5% of chalets were involved in this form of holiday – the remainder hoped to attract skiers with magazine advertising and other costly mechanisms. In 1998, some 800,000 skiing holidays originated in the UK, of which only 25% were self-organised, with similar volumes of holidays coming from Scandinavia.
Iglu.com was founded in June 1998 by CEO Richard Downs and MD Emmanuelle Drouet with the aim, in their words, of ‘democratising’ ski holidays by using the Web to put skiers and chalets directly in touch with each other (a so-called ‘butterfly’ model – many skiers connect with many chalets, through a single portal). Skiers could therefore assemble their own holiday, using Iglu’s search facilities to identify chalets and localities matching their needs. Then, having fixed their accommodation, they could use Iglu’s links to find and book the other services they needed (airlines, equipment hire, ski-lift passes …)
This game sets you the same challenge of winning both chalets and skiers, when competitors are trying to launch the same innovation. You need to succeed fast, because your costs (mostly staff and marketing) are burning cash at a rapid rate, and you need to get revenues and profits from vacation sales as quickly as possible.
Note that Iglu.com has been highly successful, and diversified extensively beyond this initial innovation - see www.iglu.com