Will we be able to ski in French resorts this winter? “There is no risk in booking”
“It is hope that makes us live at the moment”, sums up for AFP Jean-Luc Boch, president of the National Association of Mayors of Mountain Stations (ANMSM), in the face of the very great caution of the government as to a gradual loosening of containment by Christmas.
If all the actors of the mountain and its white gold – 350 stations, 10 billion euros in economic benefits – have their eyes riveted on the curves of the Covid-19 epidemic, no one dares to predict the speed of the recession.
In the meantime, a health protocol has been refined for weeks under the aegis of the prefect of Savoy, for sending in the coming days to the interministerial crisis unit.
The Secretary of State for SMEs, Alain Griset, on Tuesday promised to “review next week” mountain companies with “worrying” situation to give them “visibility on this first part of the season”.
The pre-season represents 13.5% of attendance and Christmas around 13.0%, when February and March weigh for more than half.
“We have our hands on the buzzer; we will be ready as soon as the light turns green. And it will be + welcome in the stations + with rules well prepared and disseminated”, affirms Jean-Marc Silva, director of France Montagne, an organization for promotion of the destination.
In the Pyrenees, the stations are also preparing to open. “When the time comes, if the snow is there and we are authorized to use it, we will be ready,” said Christophe Esparseil, who runs the three Haute-Garonne resorts.
“We prepare normally”, assures Georges Vigneau, at the head of five Ariège stations. “We hired the staff who needed to be”.
It should be possible to ski with your face uncovered on the slopes. However, the mask will be mandatory in queues, ski lifts, ski lesson gatherings and shops, according to protocols tested last summer.
Half fewer bookings
A summer when attendance was better than expected thanks to the French and to neophytes, whose resorts are awaiting their return to compensate for the absence of foreign tourists.
For the time being, the reconfinement has “slowed down reservations” but “there is no risk in reserving” because “the various players almost all offer cancellations free of charge”, insists Mr. Silva.
Despite this, “the Christmas week records -50% of reservations and that of the New Year -40%”, notes Eric Brèche, president of the National Union of French Ski Instructors.
The resorts want to reassure and highlight the need of the French to “recharge their batteries” thanks to “pleasure” vacations, after months of health crisis.
But without hotels or restaurants, there is no ski season.
The words of the Minister of Labor Elisabeth Borne, who encouraged the hiring of seasonal workers, even if it means quickly putting them on short-time work, “is a good signal because the 120,000 seasonal workers must not be the big ones forgotten by this crisis”, insists Mr. Boch, also mayor of La Plagne.
But this speech “is not clear for 2021,” said François Gauthier, president of the Hotels commission at the GNI, the employers’ union of independent hotel and restaurant workers.
“Short-time work must be able to benefit all seasonal workers, including those hired for the first time, in all companies, throughout the season,” he said.
The sector fears in particular that compensation will be less favorable from January 1.
More alarmist, Pierre Didio (FO Savoie estimates that if the 15,000 employees of the ski lifts should be entitled to partial unemployment, “the vast majority of seasonal workers will not have access to it, because they will undoubtedly not be hired”.
According to Antoine Fatiga (CGT), responsible for seasonal workers in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, “30 or 40% of seasonal workers, already very precarious”, could “remain on the sidelines”