Slovakia’s Tatry Mountain Resorts bets on downhill to continue uphill

Slovakia’s Tatry Mountain Resorts bets on downhill to continue uphill
Skier enjoys downhill skiing at one of TMR's resorts in Slovakia.
By Carmen Simion in Bucharest February 9, 2016

The Slovak operator of mountain resorts and tourist services provider Tatry Mountain Resorts expects to welcome 20,000 tourists to the resort of Jasna during the Alpine Skiing World Cup that will be held on March 5-6, the company tells bne IntelliNews. The event will return to the village in central Slovakia in the Low Tatras after 32 years.

Tourism returned to growth last year in Slovakia and the Central European country expects the trend to continue in the coming years, with the tourist numbers rising 5-7% this year from the more than 4mn visitors in 2015, according to estimates from the Slovak Tourist Board. Tourism benefited last year from good weather and the country’s marketing activities, it said.

As mountains are probably the biggest draw for Slovakia in winter, TMR is likely to benefit from this rising trend in tourist numbers. Although the company avoids putting a total number on the expected visitors for 2016, it hopes the sports event in Jasna will make the resort more popular and attract new clients. Moreover, it hopes the weather will allow it to extend the skiing season until early May, similar to last year when skiing was possible even as late as May 10.

“We expect to welcome about 20,000 visitors to the resort of Jasna during the World Cup and assume that as well as publicity for the resort, we will be profiting also from a high occupancy rate in our hotels as well as a positive influence on our additional services such as sports shops, rentals, gastronomy facilities on the slopes. We will also try to use the synergies with our Aquapark Tatralandia and attract as many World Cup spectators as possible,” TMR spokeswoman Zuzana Fabianova tells bne IntelliNews.

TMR, a leader in the operation of mountain resorts and provision of tourist services in Central Europe, is active in three key segments: mountains/leisure, hotels and real estate, with the mountains/leisure being the company’s core segment. It operates  a few mountain resorts in the High and Low Tatras and the Polish Beskid Mountains, offering a total of 95km of ski trails.

It also operates two leisure parks – Aquapark Tatralandia in Slovakia and the Silesian Amusement Park in Poland – as well as offering complex services, such as dining, ski schools, sports shops and ski rental. The acquisition of Tatralandia, the biggest aquapark in Slovakia, in 2011 was in line with the company’s strategy to build an all-year tourist business. It also operates hotels in the proximity of its resorts and is active in the real estate segment, holding a 19% stake in Melida, which operates the Spindleruv Mlyn resort in neighbouring Czech Republic. 

In the nine months through August last year, the company’s latest available data, the number of visitors to all of TMR’s resorts reached 1.5mn, with the resorts of Vysoke Tatry and Jasna Nizke Tatry seeing 19.4% more visitors compared with the previous year.  The company will publish more recent data on the number of tourists in its annual report for the whole financial year due to be released on February 29.

However, the company admits it has seen a decline in the number of tourists coming from Russia and Ukraine due to current geopolitical conflicts. The decrease was offset by larger numbers of Polish, Czech and Slovak visitors, it insists.

Snowed under

TMR, which in April last year purchased Polish Silesian Park, says it is not looking for new acquisition goals at the moment and will continue the development of the already launched projects. “We will be focusing mainly on the development of the SON [Szczyrkowski osrodek narciarski] resort in Szczyrk, Poland, where we plan to invest about €30mn in a medium-term horizon and transform it to the level of our resorts in the Tatra,” the company says. “Now we are at the stage of planning and acquiring necessary permissions.”

It will also continue the planned €30mn investment in the Silesian Amusement Park. TMR acquired a 75% share of Silesian Amusement Park from the Polish company WPKiW and committed to investing PLN120mn (€30mn) in the modernization of the park over a five-year period. According to the deal, following the successful completion of the investment plan after five years, TMR will be able to exercise a call option to purchase the remaining 25% interest from WPKiW.

“As far as the segment of real estate projects is concerned, we plan to launch a multi-functional project of the ‘Jasna centre’. Last year, we began to reconstruct the Posta hotel, and continue with the projects of Chalets Jasna Otupne, which we are selling successfully,” TMR says, adding that new information on current investments will be published in April.

TMR is a member of the Slovak controversial financial group J&T which holds a 15.6% share in the company. Its biggest shareholder is C.I. Capital Industries Limited, a company based in Cyprus, with an 18.8% share, while the third biggest shareholder is Belgomet with a 15.4% holding.

J&T investment group is mainly active in private and retail banking, asset management, investment banking and project financing. It is present in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Croatia and Russia. Last year, Croatian media reported that the Slovak group was planning to make a hostile bid for Croatian conglomerate Adris Grupa, one of Croatia’s most successful companies. J&T is 9.9% owned by China Energy Company Limited (CEFC). Slovak media was speculating last year that the Chinese company would also be interested in acquiring a stake in TMR.