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French gîte owners fear what Covid-19 future holds

Gîte and campsite owners have been given some respite by the government over the cost of cancelled holidays.

It changed the law and made an 18-month credit note the first legal option for recompense.

The aim is to save owners having to pay out large sums quickly when their future is far from certain and to encourage guests to maintain bookings.

Owners will be hoping guests opt to hold on to bookings as the refund must still be paid if not at the end of the 18-month credit note validity period.

Consumer magazine Que Choisir warned not to make plans too far ahead, especially for trips abroad, but Ecology Minister Elisabeth Borne said people could “enjoy their own beautiful country”.

That is encouraging for gite owners Andy and Lynn Calame, in Hautes-Alpes, as Lynn says she is hoping French customers will make up any lost bookings over the summer.

It has been a case of so far, so good for the couple, who say they have had only one summer cancellation but remain divided on what that means for the future. Andy says he is by nature an optimist while Lynn says she is “a realist”, but both had feared seeing their advance bookings wiped out by the lockdown as their earnings from the 12-sleeper gite with pool in Veynes make up half their annual income.

“We have had only one cancellation for the summer season, but we feared more. We work through Airbnb and they have been fantastic. Guests can cancel without cost and we do not lose status as good hosts. There were no extra fees to pay, they have been good.”

Airbnb says the pandemic comes under force majeure rules and it “will either refund or issue travel credit that includes all service fees”.

After buying new mobile homes to extend their campsite in Calvados, Normandy, Delphine and Laurent Depuichaffray (pictured below) have some fears.

Delphine said: “We have only really had one cancellation for later in the year but the new law gives us 18 months’ breathing space and the guest is looking to take a later booking.”

Their site Le Picard was rated 8.9 out of 10 by previous clients, so they hope many will keep their bookings.

“However, 90% of our custom is with UK visitors, so we must watch what is happening in both countries.”

Owners are entitled to apply for the aid schemes set up by the government and this may be the only way to get cash for those who have already refunded guests.

One Dordogne family found a different way to ensure they had future bookings and enough money to keep going... Ian and Sara Fisk, owners of Le Chevrefeuille in St Cyprien, organised a €5,000 crowdfunder on GoFundMe.

They have run their gite and cookery courses for 15 years and the plea raised €8,448 to help cashflow. Donors were offered credit vouchers for future stays.

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