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Why drinks brands should be eyeing up Japan’s après ski scene

Japan is investing heavily in its ski scene for the first time in decades. Drinks brands that are quick to react could potentially secure lucrative sponsorship opportunities at tourist hotspots this season.

Japan’s ski industry is about to get a massive cash injection.

Hong Kong billionaire Richard Li, who owns Nihon Harmony Resorts in Niseko, Hokkaido, poured more than $500 million into installing new ski lifts and a plush new Park Hyatt hotel (rooms cost $1200 per night) during the pandemic and plans to build more ski hotels in the surrounding area. According to reports, Li has purchased land on a mountain peak next to his existing resort and plans to boost ski lift ticket prices by 50%.

Li’s is not the only company to see promise in Japan’s ski scene. China’s Fosun International Ltd. has bought ski properties in Japan, as has Malaysia’s YTL Corp., led by billionaire Francis Yeoh.

Now that Japan has reopened to foreign visitors for the first time post-Covid, skiiers have been flocking to the slopes for its 2023 ski season, which runs from mid January through to early April.

Attracted by the weak Yen, which currently makes Japan around 20% cheaper to visit than before the pandemic, skiiers from Australia, Singapore, the US and more are wasting no time in taking advantage of the country’s fresh powder and incredible mountain vistas.

According to Bloomsberg, Japan’s ski industry is more than capable of reversing its decades-long decline, and now could be the moment for its 475 ski resorts to shine.

So if drinks brands aren’t already looking into the potential for commercial partnerships within Japan’s après ski scene, perhaps they ought to be.

The ski crowd is rich pickings for the alcohol beverage category, with jubilant skiiers wanting to keep the endorphins going long after they’ve finished on the slopes.

New research by holiday operator Sunweb reveals that travellers spend up to 167% more on their après drinks than they would pay for the same drinks at home.

The study, which analysed the cost of popular ‘après’ drinks including rosé, beer, Aperol, and Vin Chaud (mulled wine) in 15 of Europe’s most famous ski resorts showed that skiiers are prepared to fork out as much as €17.00 for an Aperol Spritz (the price for said drink at the popular La Follie Douce in Méribel, France).

In the past, Veuve Clicquot has partnered with Andorra ski resort Grandvalira in Europe, which saw the resort offer glasses of the Champagne alongside its gourmet cuisine, including decadent fondue.

One of the busiest bars in Aspen, Colorado, also revealed it was shifting 140 bottles of Veuve Clicquot in a single lunch service, many of which customers bought to spray over each other in hedonistic ‘Champagne Showers’.

Jagermeister is known for sponsoring the ski on-trade with branded snowboards and hoodies, while the AB InBev-owned Corona beer brand has provided beanie hats to warm up chilly thrill-seekers coming off the slopes.

Meanwhile, hot buttered rum and Irish coffees sell stupendously in any self-respecting ski resort so premium brands such as Kraken and Johnny Walker could clean up in Japan’s nouveaux ski scene.

The consumer demand, it seems, if not there right now, then will be soon. But who will be the first to claim their space in the Japanese après market? An obvious choice would be Hennessy or Rémy Martin with luxury Cognac being a firm favourite with consumers in Asia-Pacific.

Premium sake companies could also thrive, especially with many hospitality venues preferring to serve their sake warm. Sake could also provide a key point of difference for international skiiers looking to explore Japanese culture.

Budweiser, which built Asia’s largest craft beer brewery in China last year, might consider striking up a deal with Japan’s resort owners to have its beer become ‘the face’ of Japanese skiing.

In 2020, a report by Luxus suggested that Champagne remained the benchmark drink in Japan, with the country leading the way in terms of Champagne sales within Asia at the time. Laurent-Perrier, Moët & Chandon, Taittinger and Roederer are favourites with domestic Japanese consumers.

It’s a level playing field at the moment but whichever drinks brands are bold enough to get in there first could reap the rewards come end-of-year results time.


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