France’s planned new travel restrictions on UK tourists will have a “devastating effect” on the ski industry this winter, two people working in the industry have told The Connexion.
From Saturday, UK tourists will be banned from entering France. Only people with an essential reason to visit can enter due to concerns over Covid.
This will cause major disruption to France’s ski industry, and to the companies that work with the British market.
We speak to two people whose businesses are impacted.
Daniel Elkan, a ski journalist and founder of Snowcarbon, a website that helps skiers find train routes to ski resorts and to organise ski holidays
“This is going to be devastating for the ski industry. So many hours spent arranging holidays that can’t happen, and then hours processing refunds.
“For Snowcarbon, there won’t be so much red tape because we help people choose where to ski, where to stay and how to get there, but we don’t do the actual bookings.
“But for the partners we work with, tour operators, hotels and travel agencies, along with the rest of the ski industry, I can’t imagine how difficult things will be as this is the third ski season on the trot experiencing part of it being cancelled due to the pandemic.
“It’s particularly difficult when the ban comes only 48 hours before the Christmas week of skiing.
“France accounts for about 32% of the UK ski market. There’s a wonderful range of skiing there, and a real diversity of ski holiday providers, from large tour operators to husband-and-wife small chalet companies.
“Everyone’s livelihoods will of course be affected.
“This year is a bit different to last year when there was a more-or-less blanket ban. In a way it’s the hope that kills you.
“The ski industry does so much work helping people to organise holidays. To do all this work for it to be cancelled is heartbreaking and it’s really difficult for many operators and people in the industry.
“In recent days Emmanuel Macron has said that the UK government is untrustworthy because our politicians don’t keep their word. I don’t know whether this influences the restrictions placed on travel from the UK, but it certainly couldn’t help our cause in terms of travel access to Europe.
“I think that train travel was viewed as a fairly covid-safe way to travel to the Alps, by avoiding the need to be packed into airport queues and cramped flights. But I guess the factor for the ban was the country of origin, not how people are travelling.”
Head of an independent tour operator in La Plagne (who asked not to be named)
“It’s a nightmare. In the back of our minds we knew it might happen, but it has come earlier than we thought.
“We’re calling our customers now to see what the situation is. Some of them are bolting for the border to try to get across before they close.
“Every UK company and every company that works with British companies is going to be affected by this.
“The problem is, we don’t know how long this is going to go on for.
“Some people had planned to come over for Christmas, and they are now sitting at home with no tree, no Christmas, nothing.
“It’s a massive industry and the knock-on effect is huge.
“Just a simple example. We have ordered Christmas trees for all the chalets and they are supposed to arrive today. So I’ll have to phone and say don’t bother bringing them.
“The difference between this year and last year is that the ski lifts are open. We don’t know how long for, but they are still open.
“Last year, they were closed, so those who were able to get help from the French government obviously got it, which is the reason we’re all still here. This year, if lifts are open and we don’t have any guests, we probably won’t get any aid from the government.
“It was simpler last year. We didn’t get staff, we just targeted the French market with our self-catering accommodation.
“With the staff this year, we'll probably have to lay them off, without knowing if in a month’s time we can re-open. But by then the staff will have other jobs. We can’t afford to pay staff without having clients.
“The UK is a very buoyant market and people love skiing. It was going to be a pretty reasonable season. We had a last-minute booking even yesterday.
“Now it’s completely up in the air.”