Ski industry devastated by new tourism ban between UK and France

France’s new travel restrictions for British tourists will have a ‘devastating effect’ on the ski industry this winter, two people working in the industry have said The connection.

From Saturday, British tourists will be banned from entering France. Only people with an essential reason to visit can enter due to Covid concerns.

Read more: New restrictions between the UK and France: no tourist visits or quarantine announced

This will cause major disruption for the ski industry in France and for companies working with the UK market.

We talk to two people whose businesses are impacted.

Read more: Masks, packages: which Covid rules apply for this ski season in France?

Daniel Elkan, ski journalist and founder of Snowcarbona site that helps skiers find train routes to ski resorts and plan ski holidays

Daniel Elkan, founder of Snowcarbon, a website that helps skiers find train routes to Pic ski resorts: Sent by respondent

“It’s going to be devastating for the ski industry. So many hours spent arranging a vacation that can’t happen and then hours processing refunds.

“For Snowcarbon there won’t be as much red tape as 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, and the rest of the ski industry, I can’t imagine how difficult things will be as this is the third back-to-back ski season that saw part of it canceled due to the pandemic.

“It’s particularly difficult when the ban comes just 48 hours before Christmas Ski Week.

“France represents around 32% of the ski market in the UK. There is a wonderful range of ski runs and a real diversity of ski holiday providers, from large tour operators to small husband and wife chalet companies.

“Everyone’s livelihood will of course be affected.

“This year is a bit different from last year when there was a more or less general ban. In a way, it’s hope that kills.

“The ski industry does so much work to help people plan their vacations. Doing all this work to get it canceled is heartbreaking and really difficult for many operators and people in the industry.

“In recent days, Emmanuel Macron has said that the British government cannot be trusted because our politicians do not keep their word. I don’t know if this influences the restrictions on travel from the UK, but it certainly could not help our cause in terms of access to travel in Europe.

“I think train travel was seen as a fairly safe way to travel around the Alps, avoiding being crammed into airport queues and cramped flights. But I guess the factor for the ban was the country of origin, not how people travel.

Head of an independent tour operator in La Plagne (who requested anonymity)

“It’s a nightmare. In the back of our minds we knew it could happen, but it happened sooner than we thought.

“We are calling our customers now to see what the situation is. Some of them are rushing towards the border to try to get through before it closes.

“Every UK business and every business that works with UK businesses is going to be affected by this.

“The problem is that we don’t know how long it will last.

“Some people had planned to come for Christmas, and now they are sitting at home with no tree, no Christmas, no nothing.

“It’s a massive industry and the ripple effect is huge.

“Just a simple example. We have ordered Christmas trees for all the chalets and they should arrive today. So I’m going to have to call 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, but they are still open.

“Last year they were closed so whoever was able to get help from the French government obviously got it, that’s why we’re all still here. This year if the lifts are open and we don’t have guests, we probably won’t get any help from the government.

“It was easier last year. We didn’t have any staff, we just targeted the French market with our self-catering accommodation.

“With the staff this year, it will probably be necessary to lay them off, not knowing if in a month we will be able to reopen. But by then, the staff will have other jobs. We cannot afford to pay staff without having clients.

“The UK is a very dynamic market and people love to ski. It was going to be a pretty reasonable season. We had a last minute reservation even yesterday.

“Now it’s completely up in the air.”

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