Bookings at ski resorts in France have now exceeded pre-pandemic levels, industry professionals have confirmed, with occupancy levels up to 82%.
This compares to 79.5% for the same time period before the health crisis, said Jean-Luc Boch, president of national mountain mayors’ group l'Association nationale des maires des stations de montagne (ANMSM).
In a statement, he said: “The improvement envisaged on the pandemic front, the return of international clients and the enthusiasm of people in France for the mountains, may lead to encouraging prospects for the end of the season.”
Mountain resort monitoring centre l'Observatoire National des Stations de Montagne (ONSM) said that it was seeing “positive trends” for this holiday season, which is set to begin this weekend.
It said that the bookings had mainly been pushed up by clientele from within France. Bookings for the last week of the holidays (February 26 to March 5) have risen by 36% compared to the 2019-2020 season.
International visitors, especially from the UK, have also helped drive up reservations. Their absence was especially noted over the Christmas and New Year holidays, when travel was severely restricted due to Covid.
Yet, the ONSM said that “for the month of February, international bookings are expected to increase but will probably remain below those of the 2019-2020 season due to a very late restart of the tourist activity”.
But Mr Boch said that stations were ready and willing to welcome UK and international visitors, with all safety and health protocols in place.
He said: “Everything has been done to welcome holidaymakers, both adults and children, in the best possible conditions, in compliance with health measures.”
Covid crisis and UK visitors
It comes after mountain industries were hit especially hard due to the Covid crisis, which all but closed ski resorts last year as ski lifts were shut, and international visitors were barred.
In November, as ski resorts began to reopen, Olivier Simonin, director of the Val d'Isère Téléphériques, said: “This year is very important and essential for us. We know that if we don't do well this year, our future is at stake.
“We couldn’t bear the thought of not having a winter season, so we did everything to make it happen."
Travel rules from UK to France were relaxed on January 14, with vaccinated passengers finally allowed to travel on presentation of a negative Covid test from the previous 24 hours.
François Badjily, director of the tourism office in Alpe d’Huez, said: “The news spread like a flurry of [snow] powder. It was a big relief, we are overjoyed.”
He explained that in the resort, “one out of every two clients are foreigners, and half of those are British, so a quarter of our clientele. And they represent much more in terms of business, as they spend more than French people”.
British travellers make up 15% of French ski resort clientele, and British activity is estimated to be worth €1billion per year to the French ski economy.