A brief history of the Annual UK Launch of the Ski Season
Ski Launch started life in 1996 as the Association of British Travel Organisers to France (ABTOF) Ski Lunch, run in October in conjunction with the then French Government Tourist Office – now Atout France. The early events attracted just 15 tour operators and a similar number of (not very focused) press, but from 1998 ABTOF decided that extra effort needed to be put into building the event up.
The Annual UK Launch of the Ski Season
‘Musical Chairs’ Networking
ABTOF's PR Coordinator, Paddy Daly (at that point a confirmed non skier), recognised this as a chance to get paid to eat in renowned restaurants and the early 2000s saw the event moving to L’Escargot in Soho (at that time under the stewardship of Marco Pierre White) and then on to the celebrity's favourite hang out, The Ivy. Numbers were also growing, with the event now attracting around 60 attendees. We also introduced ‘musical chairs’ networking, where tour operators change tables after each course to speak to as many press as possible. Each person’s seating plan is unique, so you never sit with the same people. A victim of our success, we started to outgrow the smaller private rooms of restaurants and (reluctantly) we had to leave The Ivy for a new home at the Millennium Gloucester hotel.
In 2008, at the request of tour operator members, a morning plenary session was added. This became increasingly popular with topics such as posted workers, ski guiding and growing the market becoming regular discussion points. Sponsors started to see the event as a great way to talk to both ski press and ski tour operators in one go. The need for an additional session space meant a further move was in order, with the Copthorne Tara providing the best combination of space, quality, flexibility and value for money.
ABTOF Ski Lunch
In 2012, Paddy Daly left ABTOF to work for a tour operator in the wine tours business. However, this role was not quite what he had hoped for and he returned to PR in 2013, setting up Paddy Daly PR and running the ABTOF 2013 Ski Lunch as one of the first assignments. This continued in 2014 but sadly ABTOF was on the decline and was officially wound up in early 2015. At this point, the Ski Lunch could have disappeared into history.
Ski Launch is born
Seeing an obvious need for a similar event, Paddy Daly PR took on the financial risk and the ABTOF ski lunch was reborn as Ski Launch an event open to tour operators, tourist offices and suppliers from all over the skiing world. The large, modular function rooms allowed the morning session and press lunch to increase in size to accommodate the increasing numbers.
The event’s unbroken run came to an end in 2020 due to the UK Government’s Covid 19 restrictions in place in London. However, in 2021 we were back and one of the first post Covid ski events in London. It all felt very daring but it was awesome to see people in person again.
Launch the New Season
As the ski industry is emerging from the double whammy of Brexit and Covid, Ski Launch is here to help tour operators and tourist offices launch their new season to the UK ski press. Attendees are welcome from all around the world, whether they provide ski holidays, supply those companies or work in/for the national/regional tourist offices. Ski Launch takes place on the second Tuesday in September and dovetails with all the other launch events happening in this period.