Holidays on hold
Skiers and sun seekers shut out as Europe closes resorts
Skiing holidays in many resorts are on hold
Skiers and sun seekers have been told to stay away from many of Europe’s popular destinations as further restrictions are imposed on tourists.
France has admitted its lucrative ski season is likely to be written off after closing its slopes during February, while Spain’s Prime Minister said visitors will be told to stay away until after the summer, potentially decimating its tourism sector.
The Spanish government wants to see herd immunity achieved through vaccination, which is unlikely before the summer season comes to a close.
Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, the French tourism minister, said that a reopening of ski resorts on 1 February in time for half-term holidays “seems highly improbable’, reports MailOnline.
Arnaud Fontanet, one of the country’s top disease experts and a government adviser, warned on Friday that France may be heading towards tougher lockdown measures to stop the new and more-infectious UK variant of Covid from spreading.
Officials and politicians are finally accepting that tourism is a primary driver of Europe’s second wave of Covid, and government leaders are keen to avoid repeating that mistake.
France’s ski resorts say the decision to close is a “catastrophe” for their industry which employs 400,000 people and is thought to be worth up to £9.5billion per year to the French economy.
Ski lifts are forbidden to operate which means downhill skiing and snowboarding will be difficult.
Lifts in Italy and Germany have also been closed. Lifts remain open in Austria, Spain and Switzerland, but only to locals.
Europe’s Alpine ski resorts are thought to be worth about £25bn annually, or around 7% of the continent’s annual income from tourism.
The French clampdown on ski lifts comes as it has been reported that 26 British skiers are in isolation after 16 tested positive for Covid.
Villagers in the commune of Vallorcine, in the Chamonix Valley, have branded the party ‘irresponsible’ for escaping the UK lockdown, reports the Daily Mail.
The Brits, described as gap-year students who paid £8,900 each for the 10-week ski course, arrived in France between January 13 and 17.
Some were said to have been stopped from boarding a Eurostar train at London St Pancras in breach of coronavirus restrictions and were forced to find other means of travel or forgo the trip.
Boris Johnson will deliver a briefing at No10 later today amid calls from his backbenchers for a ‘road map’ for lifting Covid lockdown from March.
The Prime Minister has warned it is too early to say when the curbs would end and government scientists have urged ministers to delay the reopening of pubs and restaurants until at least May to prevent another wave of the virus.
Former Tory chief whip Mark Harper, chairman of the Covid Recovery Group, said the public now needed a timetable for easing the lockdown.
“Covid causes serious harm and it’s vital we control it effectively,” he said. “But this cycle of lockdowns and restrictions cause immense damage too – to people’s health, livelihoods and businesses.”
As travel between the UK and the rest of Europe become more difficult, Eurostar said passenger numbers plummeted 77% last year, amid renewed calls for a UK-France support package.
Eurostar is seeking a finance package
Officials from both sides continued talks yesterday in a bid to strike a deal amid fears the Channel Tunnel firm is facing collapse.
The Glastonbury Festival is the first high profile casualty of 2021 as fears grow that pandemic restrictions will continue beyond the summer.
Scotland’s National Clinical Director Jason Leitch has said it would be unwise to book a non-refundable holiday this year.
In a video that went out on the Scottish Government’s intranet he told civil servants: “I wouldn’t book a non-refundable summer holiday if I were you. I might book a holiday in the autumn or Christmas time but even then I’m not entirely sure what the world will look like in terms of freedom of movement.”
Asked about the length of time current restrictions will be in place, Prof Leitch added that they will be in place for “a little bit longer” and restrictions would be eased “very very slowly”.