The practice of winter sports generates one of the most important forms of mass tourist movement in Europe and in the whole world (Flagestad & Hope, 2001; Hudson, 2001). The offer for people practicing winter sports is, for many mountain locations, the main element of their tourist product. Poland is one of many European countries whose inhabitants show a great demand for practicing winter sports and there is a significant number of ski facilities around the country. Around 100 locations situated in the mountain massifs of southern Poland aim at attracting tourists keen on practicing winter sports by offering them continuously expanding ski facilities.
It is a cliche to say that knowledge of customers' needs and an ability to adjust the offer is one of the main conditions of success on this competitive market. A well-known problem is that customers' requirements are greatly diversified and it is impossible to meet the needs of all of them at the same time. The segmentation and the selection of target segments (in accordance with economic criteria) become essential.
The aim of this work is to provide an analysis and the segmentation of the wide and diversified market of people practicing winter sports in Polish ski resorts by considering many variables with different characteristics (descriptive and explanatory).
In the case of the voluminous and diversified market of travels connected with winter sports, a significant discrepancy of expectations of particular skiers' groups can be expected. The implications of these differences in the development of ski areas as well as social and cultural factors cause this market not to share the same characteristics of a global market--it is rather a continental or regional one. The recognition of the characteristics and needs of skiers visiting particular regions connected with winter sports become extremely important as their offer will depend on it. So far, sparse attempts at segmenting the ski market have been carried out for individual countries (Klenosky, Gengler, & Mulvey, 1993; Lewis, & Wild, 1995; Minos 1996 cited in Hudson, 2001; Dolnicar, & Leisch, 2003; Tsiotsou, 2008). Similar researches that have been conducted in various countries show a comparatively small adequacy of results obtained in one country in relation to the conditions of another one.
Research of the ski market in Poland, so far, has not considered the issue of the segmentation of skiers visiting Polish mountains. That is why the offer is controlled fundamentally by the intuition and experience of tenders rather than actual consumer preferences. There is a necessity to examine also the preferences of Polish skiers and their segmentation.
An additional argument underlying the need of researching this issue is the fact that Poland, despite its low-lying terrain, is simultaneously one of the most visited countries by tourists seeking winter sports related activities. Poland is placed at the top of the second half among the 20 countries that are visited most often for practicing winter sports, with a 0.5% share of the global market (Hudson 2000, p.28).
Moreover, the research conducted in the developed countries of Europe and North America with longer ski traditions than Poland is acutely inadequate for the realities of the Polish market because of:
* The relatively small degree of the Polish ski market internationalization (in comparison with other geographic markets) causing Poles not go skiing abroad too often, and that the number of foreigners on Polish ski slopes is insubstantial (Zemla, 2008).
* The surplus of demand over supply resulting from relatively small internationalizing and supply of the market (Zemla, 2004).
* Different (from other countries' markets) dynamics of the domestic demand--it is a rapidly developing market in Poland, while the majority of traditional destinations are fighting against the problem of years of stagnation (Flagestad, & Hope, 2001).
In tourist market research a trend can be observed that tries to implement numerous segmentation criteria in order to achieve a relatively complete characteristics of a group of buyers (Briggs, 2001, p. 67 and Gibson 1998, p. 53). In addition, the accuracy and adequacy of the division of the market into segments can be increased by the simultaneous use of criteria belonging to different groups--this is the multidimensional way with the use of descriptive and explanatory criteria. Examples of such methodology of tourist market segmentation are presented by Holloway and Robinson (1995) and Frochot (2003, pp. 335-346). Frochot also places a special attention to the relatively little suitability of analysis based only on products' characteristic or socio-economical criteria (Frochot, 2003, p. 338).
Regarding the winter sports market, the multidimensional segmentations based on different variables are presented in the works of Klenosky, Gengler, and Mulvey (1993) and Dolnicar, and Leisch (2003), in which the main segmentation criteria are the expectations of buyers regarding the product that was compared with numerous psychological and demographic characteristics of skiers based on statistical analysis.
One of the criteria most often used in the segmentation of the winter sports market in the world is the frequency of visits (Lewis, & Wild, 1995; Minos, 1996; Tsiotsou, 2008). This criterion is used both as one of numerous segmentation criteria (Lewis, & Wild, 1995; Minos, 1996) and as a main element of group discrimination allowing to create homogeneous segments (Tsiotsou, 2008). Whereas Carmichael (1996) points out that the key segmentation criterion is the length of a ski visit highlighting the fact that this factor determines skiers' preferences and their choice of place of destination. The comparison of these two groups of criteria leads to some interesting results. It enables to assess each tourist according to their long-term and short-term visits.
To fulfill the aim of this work, a survey was conducted on a representative group of skiers visiting Polish mountains in the winter season of 2005. The research was carried out in ten ski resorts, chosen in accordance with the criteria of size and distance among them (1). In each resort 100 questionnaires were submitted, which gave the possibility to gather information on the characteristics, preferences and behaviors of 1000 respondents. Presuming that using ski-lifts depends on the time of the week (a weekday or weekend), in each resort 50 surveys were carried out on a weekday and another 50 during weekend. Moreover, all respondents were chosen according to their age and sex. In each resort a sample contained no less than 45% women or men and at least 15% of the respondents were from the following age groups: 16-25, 26-35, 36-45, 46-55. The final structure of the entire sample was: women--48%, men --52%; age 16-25--32% (including: age 16-20--13%; age 21-25--19%); age 26-35--25% (including: age 26-30--14%; age 31-35--11%); age 36-45--24% (including: age 36-40--13%; age 41-45--11%); age 46-55--19% (including: age 46-50--9%; age 51-55--10%).
The data collected were subjected to statistical analysis, which allowed for the selection of the key factors that differentiate respondents. Grouping of respondents through the structure analysis was based on their actions (mainly the frequency of visits: one day, two days, one week and over one week), which allowed the initial segmentation of skiers and dividing them into seven groups: Accidental Skiers, One-day Skiers, Weekend Skiers, Frequent Skiers, Short-stay Skiers, Short- and Long-stay Skiers, Long-stay Skiers (tab.1). Besides these seven groups, one group of skiers named Residents was set apart, consisting of skiers who are inhabitants of ski locations and their surroundings, independently from the frequency and length of stays.
The results underwent verification through a multidimensional analysis. As the data had the character of nominal features, a correspondence analysis was used (Benzecri, 1992) bringing the picture of two- and three-dimensional mutual relations of the particular features, behaviors and preferences which are possible to be presented graphically (Greenacre & Hastie, 1987). Graphical interpretation of the measures of taxonomic distances among the originally prepared segments and features which can characterize them was obtained. Up to now the segmentation of tourists has been conducted with only the index of structure and mutual correlation, when the correspondence analysis has allowed for the verification of the obtained graphical characteristics despite analyzing many dimensions at the same time. First of all, the respondents were asked which factors were the most important for them when choosing a ski resort (tab. 2), along with their level of satisfaction with the services of the resort where the research was being conducted, the mode of transport used during skiing holidays, their skiing abilities, and about their accommodation.
Moreover, in each case it was indicated whether the research was conducted during a weekday, weekend, or at the respondent's place of residence during winter holidays. The key features that the respondents took into consideration when choosing the destination of their ski visits were: easy access to the resort, the guarantee of snow cover, no queues to ski-lifts and well-prepared slopes.
Based on the answer to the question about the most important factors of choosing a ski resort, the respondents were further divided into those of tourist profile, who were seeking mainly rest and whose sports activities were only one of a multitude of reasons for their visit; and those whose visits were explicitly of a sports character and for whom other tourist attractions constituted as an additional offer only. The division of tourists into these groups was performed by examining their needs and preferences. If skiers sought sport-related conveniences (e.g. no queues to ski-lifts, large number of diversified slopes, well-prepared slopes, comfortable ski-lifts with big capacity, ski ticket covering many lifts, separate infrastructure for snowboarding), then they were classified as preferring sports character visits. If respondents sought other conveniences (e.g. peace and quiet, evening entertainment, recreational offer, folkloric and cultural events, scenic beauty), then they were classified as preferring visits with a tourist character, where sport constitutes as only one of many attractions (not the most important one).
Discussion and conclusion
As a result of applying the previously described quantitative analysis, in which the most important features (according to the questionnaire survey) were included and skiers were divided into separate segments, a description of preferences for the particular sections was obtained.
It turned out that the largest segment was the Long-stay Skiers; constituting 41.8% of the examined respondents. This figure is not surprising as it reflects the fact that 44% of them admitted that they live in the provinces of central Poland (Lubuskie, Wielkopolskie, Lodzkie, Swietokrzyskie, Mazowieckie, Lubelskie) or northern Poland (Zachodniopomorskie, Pomorskie, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Warminsko-Mazurskie, Podlaskie). The location of these provinces, mainly in lowlands, means that the journey time to the closest ski destination in the mountains is too long to go only for one or two days. However, some of the inhabitants from these areas may ski in the upland areas (Swietokrzyskie Mountains, Kashubian Switzerland) or the post-industrial dumping grounds (Kamiensk Mountain) located close enough to make a quick trip there. This trend can also be observed in the structure of Accidental Skiers and Long-stay Skiers segments. A larger percentage of the inhabitants of central and northern Poland belongs to Accidental Skiers segment than to Long-stay Skiers one.
Long-stay Skiers go skiing mostly during their winter holidays (fig. 1) and spend a lot of working days in ski towns (fig. 2). They spend a lot of time at their destination taking advantage of their winter holidays--as most of them are working, studying or have children at primary school. This group consists of rather weak or mediocre skiers (fig. 1). Moreover, only this group can be singled out as a tourist model--they are interested not only in skiing, but also in other elements of the service provided in the place of their destination (e.g. accommodation facilities--fig. 8), mainly because they have more time to spend, and therefore, they need more varied forms of entertainment (fig. 3). Even though most of them travel by their own car, they are more willing to travel by public transport than members of other segments (fig. 4). Long-stay Skiers are generally very satisfied with the service provided by the visited resorts (fig. 5), which could suggest a relatively low level of expectations. The essential elements of a ski resort for Long-stay Skiers are: the guarantee of snow cover and the feeling of security (fig. 6).
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The second biggest segment is Short- and Long-stay Skiers (11.7[degrees]% of respondents). They are very good skiers (fig. 1), who do not go skiing during their winter holidays (fig. 1) and at weekends too often (fig. 2). They have a definite sport profile (fig. 3)--they want to use their chosen destination for the main purpose of skiing. No queues to ski-lifts is a crucial feature they require (fig. 6), however, also all other elements of ski infrastructure are of great importance for them, i.e. well-prepared slopes, numerous and comfortable ski-lifts, a large number of diversified slopes (fig. 7).
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Another segment of tourists with a very similar size is Short-stay Skiers (11.5% of respondents). They travel rather not during their winter holidays (fig. 1), without any preference for weekdays or weekends (fig. 2). Their sport profile is more dominant, (fig. 3) which can be seen by the large number of ski activities they practice. Short-stay Skiers are one of the most content groups (fig. 5). The most important feature for them is good connection with their chosen ski resort (fig. 6). This is probably due to the relatively short time that they can spend in a ski resort--so the journey to the resort should not take too long. It is worth mentioning that Short-stay Skiers, unlike other segments with sport profile, do not pay much attention to well-prepared slopes, comfortable ski-lifts with big capacity and a possibility to purchase a ski ticket covering many lifts (fig. 7).
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The number of One-day Skiers is also very similar in size (11.3% of respondents). Due to their consumerist behavior it is a distinctively different segment from the others. The inhabitants of southern Poland belong to it exclusively--they live close enough to the mountains areas to go for a one-day trip. They are very skilled skiers (fig. 1), traveling mainly not during their winter holidays (fig. 1), both during weekdays and at weekends (fig. 2). They have the strongest preference of all groups for traveling by their own car (fig. 4)--probably because of their limited amount of time. They are interested rather in using ski infrastructure than other tourist attractions. This is fully understandable, as during one-day trips the ski activity, as a rule, cannot be combined with the other forms of activities. One-day Skiers are not interested in accommodation facilities, which is obvious (fig. 8). They are the ones that are most satisfied with the service provided by ski resorts (fig. 5). A good access is a key factor for them (fig. 6) along with a large number of diversified routes (fig. 7). Nevertheless, they also pay attention to other elements of the ski resort's facilities, such as slopes or comfortable and capacious ski-lifts (fig. 7). Somewhat surprisingly, the issue of long queues to ski-lifts was shown to be of very little importance to them (fig. 6).
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The remaining segments are evidently smaller with less than 10% of respondents. The biggest group is Accidental Skiers (8.9% of respondents). They go for ski holidays the least often among all the groups and their skills are limited as well (fig. 1). Accidental Skiers visit ski resorts mainly during winter holidays (fig. 1) and at weekends (fig. 2). Their preferences can be associated with this factor as well. Despite the fact that a sport model describes them much better than a tourist model (fig. 3), they have relatively little interest in such elements of service as well prepared slopes, comfortable ski-lifts with big capacity, ski ticket covering many lifts (fig. 7) or no queues to ski-lifts (fig. 6). However, they admire picturesque landscapes (fig. 8), which are almost completely an unimportant factor for the other tourist segments. In comparison to the other groups, Accidental Skiers are relatively demanding in regards to ski resorts' facilities. This can observed by a generally low level of satisfaction with resorts' facilities (fig. 5).
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The next segment--Weekend Skiers constitutes 6.1% of respondents. They do not have clearly specified preferences with regards to the time of their trips (fig. 1). However, they prefer weekend visits. They are only average skiers (fig. 1) and it is impossible to say whether they have sport or tourist profile (fig. 3). Looking at figures 6, 7 and 8, it can be noticed that price is the main criterion for their choices.
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Frequent Skiers is even a smaller tourist segment (5.8% of respondents). Still they are quite attractive in terms of marketing as they visit ski resorts frequently, and regularly travel to various destination regardless of the journey length. They travel mainly not during their winter holidays (fig. 1) and most often at weekends (fig. 2). They concentrate on ski offer that reflects their sport profile. They do not pay much attention to road connection (fig. 6). In contrary with the other segments who have a dominant sport profile, they pay special attention to the possibility of acquiring a ski ticket covering as many ski-lifts and slopes as possible (fig. 7).
The last segment is called Residents (2.9% of respondents). It is both the smallest and also the most unique group. This group is distinct from the others in terms of their preferences and behaviors, which is evident on almost every figure. It is hard to describe this segment using the factors used in this analysis. It is only possible to show that of all the groups, this one uses other modes of transport then their own car (due to the location of their place of residence some of them can go on foot) (fig. 4). They pay a relatively high attention to picturesque landscapes (fig. 6). They go skiing more often at weekends (fig. 2).
Our results constitute an intrinsic value for the proper planning of marketing tactics and strategies by Polish ski resorts. Comparing the models of different ski activities with preferences and the number of individual segments allow ski resorts to tailor their service to the market segments which are relevant and of importance to them.
An innovative approach to the issue of visitor segmentation is also of great importance. Current analytical activities have usually been limited, using only structure factors as the main criteria of visitor segmentation. In this work a multidimensional approach to tourist grouping was applied. Additionally, when using correspondence analysis, a knowledge originating from the various elements can be exploited. In the end, this process has allowed the possibility for the tourism industry to gain a wealth of information about tourists, whose most interesting habits and preferences were introduced and highlighted in this work.
The graphic presentation of the basic segments and behaviors is a utility value of this work. The people who are responsible for the creation of product strategies for ski tourism can use the results presented in this research to better target and deploy their strategies, so that they may have a more powerful, and a more productive effect.
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(1) These were: Szklarska Poreba--Ski Arena Szrenica, Sienna--Czarna Gora, Ustron--Czantoria, Szczyrk--Czyrna-Solisko, Miedzybrodzie Zywieckie--Zar, Zakopane--Gubalowka and Kasprowy Wierch, Bialka Tatrzanska--Kotelnica, Szczawnica--Palenica, Wierchomla Mala.
Received April 20, 2012
Adam R. SZROMEK, Silesian University of Technology in Gliwice, College of Organization and Management in Zabrze, 26-28 Roosevelt St., 41-800 Zabrze, Poland; firstname.lastname@example.org
Michal ZEMLA, Katowice School of Economics, Tourism Department, 3 Harcerzy Wrzeoenia St. 40-659 Katowice, Poland; email@example.com
Andrzej HADZIK, Ph., University of Physical Education in Katowice, The Department of Sport and Tourism Management, 72A Mikolowska St., 40-065 Katowice, Poland; Andrzej_Hadzik@wp.pl
Table 1 The characteristic of each segment SEGMENT CHARACTERISTIC Respondents' classification criteria Accidental People who go skiing sporadically with up to Skiers one one-day visit per year and less than one longer visit per year (two-day, up to one week or over one week) or none. One-day Skiers People who often go for a one-day ski visit (at least twice a year) and who do not stay for a night at their destination or do it very rarely. Weekend Skiers People who relatively often go on two-day stays (at least twice a year) and at most once per year on longer stays and at most twice a year on one-day visits. Frequent Skiers People who relatively often go on ski holidays of all given types. Short-stay Skiers People who prefer two-day visits and short stays (up to one week) with rare one-day visits or longer than one week. Short- and Long- People who go skiing relatively often (at stay Skiers least once a year) on one-day visits and up to one week stays and even longer than one week, but rarely or almost never go on two-day visits. Long-stay Skiers People who do not go at all or go very rarely on one-day and two-day visits and who declare a stay up to one week or over one week at least once a year. Residents The inhabitants of ski towns and their surroundings. Source: Own study Table 2 The importance of criteria (each respondent could pick three) Criterion Percentage Easy access 38% Guarantee of snow cover 33% No queues to ski-lifts 32% Well-prepared slopes 31% Large number of diversified ski slopes 20% Feeling of safety 18% Low prices of services 18% Comfortable ski-lifts with big capacity 15% Satisfactory accommodation base 10% Scenic beauty 10% Good access to information 7% Ski ticket covering many lifts 7% Satisfactory gastronomic base 7% Separate infra structure for snowboarding 6% Evening entertainment 5% Additional services for skiers 4% Additional recreational offer 2% Local folk/cultural events 2% Peace and quiet 2% Source: Own study…