France to keep ski lifts shut due to Covid-19, in blow to winter sports tourism

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Ski lifts at resorts in France will stay closed at the start of February, the government said on Wednesday, essentially writing off this winter sports tourism season due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ski lifts will not be allowed to open from February 1, the date given by the government for a possible easing of restrictions, and a “reopening in mid- or late-February seems highly improbable”, said Tourism Minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne.

Speaking in a video conference with industry players, he acknowledged that the season would be a write-off for the sector, which counts for between 250,000 and 400,000 direct and indirect jobs in France.

France is currently not in lockdown and people are in theory free to visit Alpine resorts and stay in hotels. But restaurants are also shut and the lack of ski lifts prevents tourists enjoying downhill skiing, even if cross-country and snow-shoeing are possible.

Prime Minister Jean Castex will meet industry players in the coming days in order to “finalise the economic support measures” for companies affected by the prolonged closure, Lemoyne said.

“The snow cannons are not going to be working, so the cannons of compensation must be there,” he said.

Occupancy rates at ski resorts have already collapsed to “20 or 30 percent” at most, “compared with 95 percent usually” during the Christmas holidays, he added.


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