For 21 years people have been coming to us for advice on ski holidays. We use these years of experience to offer guidance on everything from which resort to choose and where to stay, childcare, transfers, ski schools and ski instructors and guides. The list goes on. COVID-19 has somewhat shifted the conversation and so I wanted to share some of the questions we are being asked at the moment, and provide some insight, where possible.
When will we be able to travel again?
Lockdowns are slowly easing across Europe and ski resorts are beginning to start opening up for the summer. For example, hotels, bars, and restaurants are opening in Zermatt. The ski lifts are due to open this month. However, it is important to note there are currently still restrictions on entering into Switzerland for non-nationals.
European governments are working to try and put reciprocal travel arrangements in place to allow travel within Europe, eg: Italy is allowing citizens to travel within EU and to UK from June 3rd. The Croatian government has opened its the borders and abolished the 14 days quarantine. Visitors can now enter the country with the paperwork that shows they have a private yacht booked. There is certainly no unified plan for this, but attempts are being made to open up travel.
Will there be a normal ski season next winter?
It is too early to tell what shape or form the ski resorts will be in for next winter. When we talk to the hotels, chalets, ski schools, bars and restaurants we work with, they are all hoping things will be back to normal. As we are just over two months into the lockdown across Europe it is hard to predict where we will be in another two months’ time, never mind six to twelve months. I believe one advantage skiing has, is that it can test and learn from the summer business that has opened up. What has worked with opening up ski lifts in terms of social distancing, what is it that clients are now looking for in the experience of staying in a lovely hotel or chalet and how can they adapt before the winter to improve on this.
What are operators, travel agents and resorts doing to prepare for next winter?
Chalets and hotels are working hard to provide reassurances to guests that they have implemented measures to help protect against COVID-19.
- Properties are reviewing their cleaning and changeover procedures for Winter 2020/21 to ensure even greater hygiene standards throughout.
- Chalets and hotels are reviewing procedures to improve social distancing among staff.
- We will help you consider other methods of travel to ensure maximum social distancing, such as travelling to and from resort by road or chartering a private aircraft.
How will social distancing work in ski resorts?
One thing that is more than likely is that skiing won’t be the same this year as before. There are likely to be restrictions on how lifts operate and how many people can travel on them at one time. Bars and restaurants will probably have to alter how they serve and position customers, and social distancing norms are likely to continue within the resorts and villages.
Whilst we don’t know exactly how things will be in Europe, we can watch other parts of the world to see how they are managing. New Zealand is set to begin opening its ski fields at the end of June after ski resorts have been given a special exemption to operate.
Some of the measures they have taken are as follows:
- Physical distancing required
- Contact tracing in place
- Resort restaurants to follow hospitality limits of 100 people maximum, seated and served separately
- Increased cleaning and sanitation
The efficacy of these measures will be watched keenly by those planning Europe’s re-opening.
What if COVID-19 returns?
This is the biggest concern for many of our clients, and whilst we don’t know whether COVID-19 will return, we do know that resorts, operators and travel companies will be much more prepared in winter 2020/21. The industry, and travellers themselves are less likely to be caught ‘on the hop’ as many were this year and booking terms have been modified to reflect that.
Governments across Europe are also putting many measures in place to try to keep any outbreaks localised and under control through test, track, and trace measures.
Is now a good time to book a skiing holiday?
Many of the operators we work with are providing flexible terms and conditions for next winter, including fully refundable deposits on bookings and refunds or deferrals if resorts close again. We are working closely with our suppliers on these new terms
Whilst we all hope and pray COVID-19 dies down, a vaccine is found and life can return to normal, we do not know when this will be. So, is now a good time to book a holiday, whether it be in the UK for this summer of the Alps for next winter? I see no harm in doing the planning, putting the holiday in your diary, booking the time off and then think realistically what else is achievable now. You might find a lovely country house in the UK or villa in Provence for August or a ski chalet for February half term but I understand you might want to hold back from a final commitment or at least terms you are happy to book under.
In summary, there are still many unknowns, but the good news is that we do know we will be here to continue to help and advise you over this period of our lives. Please do get in touch if you have any further questions regarding future travel.
Founder and CEO
The Oxford Ski Company