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Ski industry veteran rounds on politicians
Sunday September 21, 2014 - Email this article to a friend

Andy Perrin, the boss of Inghams, Ski Total and Esprit Ski has criticised British, French and Swiss political figures. It follows new legislation on term-time holidays in the UK, a ban on ski hosting in France and changes to Swiss employment laws.

It was a passionate and straight-talking analysis of the current situation from a highly-respected figure in the UK snowsports industry.

Andy Perrin was speaking to a selected group of ski journalists and travel writers this month as he unveiled the initiatives of his three companies for the coming season.

They are owned by the Swiss travel giant, Hotelplan.

Last season business for the three operators went up by 4% overall.

"It is the politicians doing all the damage," he said as he gave his overview of the current state of the UK snowsports market.

In the UK he rounded on the ex-Education Secretary, Michael Gove, who introduced legislation to prevent parents taking their children out of school for a term-time break.

See here for a PlanetSKI story on the new legislation.

In the past some time off was allowed at the discretion of the head teacher. 

Now it is against the law, punishable by a fine and eventually a jail sentence.

"Parents are under intolerable pressures and now they can be fined and made criminals for skiing with their is also little more than a stealth tax," he said. "It is not the way to handle parents, but the good news is he (Michael Gove) has gone," said Andy Perrin.  

He accused the government of raising £3.8m in fines.

Michael Gove, MP, is now the Conservative Party Chief Whip after a recent cabinet re-shuffle.

"Both sets of parties, parents and teachers, want some discretion and it is the children that are losing out," Andy Perrin added.

The government and supporters of the new laws argue it is protecting the education rights and opportunities of all children.

Perrin presents to the PressPerrin presents to the Press













Andy Perrin then turned his attention to France where the authorities have outlawed ski hosting by the UK tour operators; see here for the latest failed appeal by the UK company, Le Ski. 

The case is supported by the major British tour operators including Inghams, Ski Total and Esprit Ski.

"Here is a Brit in a French court but if you want justice then dream on. It is national protectionism," said Andy Perrin.

He left little doubt about his views of the French legal system.

However the French would argue that they are simply enforcing their laws and that they apply the same to every person and organisation of whatever nationality.

But Andy Perrin saved his real fire for Swiss politicians and bureaucrats.

A new regulation has been introduced that has pushed up staff costs and made business impossible for British mid-market ski companies.

He said it was done without consultation or warning and it has made it untenable for the three companies owned by Hotelplan to run Swiss chalet holidays; see here for our report on the issue.

Perrin has had to axe 22 of the 23 Swiss properties that the companies ran.

He claimed the loss to Switzerland will be 6,500 skiers and a total of 40,000 overnight stays.

He has calculated the potential loss to the Swiss economy to be up to 50m Swiss francs (£32.6m).

"The Swiss have moved the goalposts and we have had to leave. The resorts will be ghost-towns and it is an outrage... we are in Alice in Wonderland territory," said Perrin.

"France, Austria and Italy will all gain at Switzerland's expense. Lech and Ischgl will benefit at the expense of Zermatt and Saas-Fee," he added.

One slide in the presentation summed it up.

Swipe at the SwissSwipe at the Swiss













The Swiss though would argue that the law is the law and it applies to everyone.

They maintain that the British companies had an unfair commercial advantage over Swiss hotels with their lower wage costs.

"The law will not change and the British tour operators need to realise that and adjust their business model rather than complaining," a senior figure from the Swiss tourism industry said to PlanetSKI this month in response to the views of Andy Perrin.

However despite his disappointment Andy Perrin had some optimism about the future of the UK snowsports market and predicted growth for next season. 

He thinks the UK market could rise by as much as 5%.

Despite the problems in Switzerland Inghams is offering 90 resorts in nine different countries with a number of new properties.

Ski Total has a number of new initiatives for 2014/15 as we reported earlier on PlanetSKI and we have just posted the new development for Esprit Ski.

We have also reported on a new product from Inghams as it launched a joint programme with the Austrian National Tourist Office to try to attract latent skiers.

We will shortly have a full report on PlanetSKI on all the plans of Inghams for the coming season.

Despite the antagonism of Andy Perrin to the politicians he has come out fighting and wants simply to do one thing.

"To work as a tour operator, free from political interference, so we can offer the best possible holidays at good prices to the hundreds of thousands of British skiers and snowboarders," he said to PlanetSKI after his presentation.

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