Ski resort transfer provider climbs to new peaks following NPIF investment

The Ski Lifts team

A Manchester-based international airport transfer provider has secured a further round of funding from NPIF-Maven Equity Finance, which is managed by Maven and part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF).

It will enable Ski Lifts to expand its services by opening two new lines of business into the golf and cruise tourism sectors.

Operating in more than 200 resorts across 14 countries, including notable locations such as Chamonix, Tignes, and Avoriaz, Ski-Lifts helps tourists hit the slopes by organising their transfer to and from the airport to their ski resort.

Starting out with just a few hundred passengers in 2003, the company now makes sure more than 100,000 passengers per season make it to their final destination.

After adding its new golf service, Golf-Drives, to the business, funding has also helped Ski-Lifts to invest in its technological capabilities and improve internal efficiencies.

This includes better automation for complicated pick-up and drop-off routes, where customers are staying at multiple hotels or golf courses over several days or weeks.

Since the initial investment in 2019, Ski-Lifts has secured a further three rounds of investment from NPIF-Maven Equity Finance, taking total invested funds to £950,000.

Funding has helped quadruple its workforce across its sales, marketing, and tech teams. Ski-Lifts has also made a handful of senior hires including new directors and a new head of IT and ecommerce.

Prior to the pandemic, Ski-Lifts was on track to achieve 40% year-over-year growth, however, it was heavily impacted by two years of restricted foreign travel.

Its ability to generate revenues was restricted for around 22 months amidst disruption to its supply chains. Despite these setbacks, its team, headed up by Richard Smith, managing director at Ski Lifts, were able to return to full strength by navigating supply chain issues, cutting costs and preserving cash, which ensured the business was well positioned to take full advantage once market conditions improved.

With travel restrictions finally lifted in January 2022, Ski Lifts closed its financial year reporting results close to its pre-pandemic levels, with expectation to add another 10 new hires to the team by the end of the year. Its cruise division, Sea Lifts, was recently launched in August 2022, which will further anchor Ski Lift’s presence as one of the most active guest transfer providers in Europe.

Richard Smith, managing director, said: “We’ve been growing rapidly since we first started, and the investment came at a time when much of our activity was put on hold due to the pandemic. Since then, we’ve bounced back to almost full capacity and NPIF and Maven have been brilliant at supporting us throughout.

“With our cruise division recently setting sail, we’re continuing to grow our team to meet demand and make sure our customers enjoy stress-free holidays once again.”

David Kemp, at Maven Capital Partners, said: “Richard and the team have been working tirelessly through the pandemic and are now reaping the rewards as the tourism industry recovers back to normal levels. The funding we’ve provided has been key in supporting Ski Lifts’ growth plans and we’re look forward to seeing the success of their latest golf and cruise offerings.”

Sean Hutchinson, senior investment manager at the British Business Bank, said: “We’re all familiar with how tough the last few years have been, particularly for the tourism sector. Ski Lifts have managed the disruption caused by the pandemic well and we’re delighted to see it come out stronger than ever before with new hires and the launch of Golf Drives and Sea Lifts. The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund has supported businesses right through the economic turmoil and continue to do so. It’s fantastic that Ski Lifts is able to use this funding to expand and grow now that new travel opportunities in their markets are returning again.”