‘Happy and relieved’: French ski resorts prepare for British visitors

Flight bookings from UK to France soared 600% when the rule relaxation was announced yesterday

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French ski resorts have welcomed the relaxation of travel rules to France from the UK, with British activity estimated to be worth €1billion per year to the French ski economy.

From today, vaccinated people travelling from the UK no longer need an “imperative reason” to travel to France, nor do they need to self-isolate for (at least) 48 hours, confirmed Tourism Minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne.

Vaccinated travellers must, however, still show a negative Covid test from the previous 24 hours before travelling but otherwise, travel for leisure – including for ski holidays – is allowed.

Read more:UK-France travel restrictions ease

Read more:Flights, trains, holiday firms gear up for increased UK-France travel

“The British make up 15% of French ski resort clientele,” said Mr Lemoyne.

‘A big relief’

The news has been warmly welcomed by French ski resorts after months of difficulties due to Covid-19.

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”.

Gilles Delaruelle, director of Courchevel Tourisme, said: “We are very happy and satisfied with the decisions taken. We are expecting a significant wave of reservations for February and March.”

Didier Arino, director of tourism specialist Protourisme, told AFP: “It’s very good news for all the major Alpine stations such as Val d’Isère, Val Thorens, La Plagne, and Les Arcs.” He said that British ski tourists are worth an estimated €1billion per year to the French economy each winter season.

Protourisme estimates that British clients make up 42% of visitors to Val d’Isère, and a similar number to the other resorts.

Christophe Lavaut, director of Val d'Isere, said that the new rules were “good news”, but that “unfortunately, this will not be enough to compensate for the losses accumulated since the Christmas holidays”.

He said that the current week had been down 32% as a result of the restrictions.

He added: “We just hope that the British people understand that the restrictions were in no way up to us and that they are always welcome.”

The French government has sent €38billion to help support the mountain tourism sector since 2020, but Covid has still had a major impact on the sector.

Ski lifts closed last year and many restaurants and stations were forced to close or operate at very low capacity due to Covid regulations, and a lack of visitors and staff.

‘Bookings up 600%’

UK hospitality professionals have also welcomed the latest news.

Budget airline EasyJet said it had seen a 600% spike in bookings following the announcement, while airline Jet2 was one of the first to announce cut-price flights to French destinations from January 22, in celebration of the rules being relaxed.

Jet2 CEO Steve Heapy said: “This is the positive news that skiers and snowboarders have been looking forward to, and the spike in bookings for ski flights has been both sharp and immediate.

“The snow conditions in the French Alps are said to be excellent, meaning our customers are jumping at the chance to get back on the slopes.”

A spokesperson for tour operator ABTA told AFP: “Thousands of people head [to France] for ski breaks at this time of year, so this will be a huge relief for customers with holidays booked there for the next few weeks, who have been waiting anxiously for news.”

Chris Logan, managing director of Crystal Ski Holidays, said: "Bookings to France doubled yesterday even before the announcement and we would expect to see another very positive uptick now it's official.”

Eurostar has also said it is now "ready to welcome more passengers" on its trains, with service frequency gradually increasing "over the coming weeks, to offer more flexibility and choice".

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