Winter sports travel firms have welcomed France’s easing of restrictions for UK travellers arriving in the country, saying the news will be a “boost” to the ski season.
This morning, French tourism minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne confirmed the country will relax its entry conditions from Friday January 14, bringing an end to its requirement for a ‘compelling’ reason for UK travellers to visit.
Ski specialists dealing with a second winter season impacted by Covid restrictions were upbeat about the confirmation of the change, which had been touted earlier this week.
Craig Burton, chief executive of Ski Solutions said: “At last, France reopens for British travellers from Friday. Whilst we cannot undo the enormous damage done to the winter sports industry from this entirely illogical closure, it doesn’t stop us jumping for joy that it has been overturned. Conditions are fantastic across the Alps right now, and we are delighted we can get our skiers and boarders out to enjoy the French mountains once again.”
Operations and product manager of Merlin Travel Group, Garry Butcher, said clients are desperate to travel for ski breaks. “The news will certainly help with some of our ski bookings, although some clients have already postponed or cancelled and chosen to travel elsewhere. I do think it will help with February half-term ski, and boost confidence for Easter.”
Joe Ponte, chief executive of Inghams and Esprit parent Hotelplan UK said: “With France being our key Esprit family holiday destination and normally accounting for around a third of Inghams’ winter programme, the French government’s latest update means, finally, the many skiers and snowboarders hoping to enjoy the French slopes with us this winter will be able to do so.”
Richard Sinclair, chief executive of ski specialist agency Sno, also welcomed the news: “The easing of restrictions for UK travellers into France is exciting news for the industry. Sno was set to have a record winter in bookings until France banned UK travellers. Looking ahead, provided there are no curveballs, this announcement could save businesses.”
Sinclair also issued a word of caution regarding the potential tightening of vaccination rules for children aged 12 and above, currently a domestic debate in France. “My advice for those who are double-jabbed and have had a booster is to go ahead and book a ski holiday as we are expecting resorts to sell out fast,” he said.
But he warned: “If you are thinking of flying out with children who have only had one jab, it might be preferable to choose a destination with less restrictions, such as Switzerland.”
Ski Solutions boss Burton advised: “With the rapid rollout now of second doses to British children, an ever-increasing number will be ‘fully vaccinated’, and hence the potential of this to cause problems lessens.”
Since the announcement by the French government, ski specialists have already noted a surge in internet search traffic for ski holidays.
Laura Hazell, Ski Beat sales and marketing director said: “We have lots of relieved and happy customers calling who are delighted that their holidays can now go ahead. We have also seen an immediate surge in internet bookings.”
Estelle Giraudeau, Club Med UK and Northern Europe managing director hopes that governments focus on a predictable set of rules moving forwards that will get the world travelling again: “This has saved the season. After two years away from the slopes, Brits are desperate to get back to France and some of the most loved ski domains in Europe and this is the final barrier to be removed.”