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What would EU exit mean for snowsports?
Monday May 9, 2016 - Email this article to a friend

The industry has given it a massive thumbs down with warnings of price rises, less protection for consumers & even a ban on British tea bags. <strong>UPDATED</strong>

PlanetSKI has been canvassing views ahead of the EU referendum in June.

So far, we've found overwhelming opposition to "Brexit" from within the industry.

So, why is everyone so miserable at the prospect of Britain leaving the European Union?

"Unfortunately, I can only see negatives," says Xavier Schouller, Managing Director of Peak Retreats and Ski Collection, a British company specialising in holidays to the French Alps. 

"I haven't come across a single travel company that thinks it would be good.

"Anything that will make it more difficult for people to travel within Europe would be a step backwards.

"Our clients travel to France and it's pretty easy and straightforward to travel at the moment.  If you start to require a visa to travel - which would be possible -  it would make it more difficult."

Surely France wouldn't impose visa restrictions on UK citizens?   

Xavier, who is French, insists it could happen in the future.

But his more pressing concern is what Brexit would mean for prices. 

"It is very likely that the pound would be crashing after Brexit," he says.  That would put up the cost of holidays significantly. A lot would depend on the exchange rate."

In or out?In or out?













Katie Waddington, a director of Zenith Holidays, agrees that the Sterling-Euro exchange rate could be hit hard, and says the impact on consumers will be immediate. 

She believes a fall in the pound is inevitable, if we vote for Brexit. 

After all, she says, the pound took a dive when the former Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, did nothing more than announce that he was joining the Vote Leave camp. 

"The prices will go up for next season," Katie says. "Unless you've paid for everything before June 23rd - your holiday, your travel, your lift pass, and have bought your Euros - it will cost you more."

The implications of that could be dire for the industry.

"We're always discussing how to get more people skiing and bring more people back to the sport," Katie says.  "A worse Euro exchange rate and higher costs is not going do that. 

"The decline will not be reversed if we vote to leave.  The EU isn't perfect but I do think it's better the devil you know."

Like many British companies offering catered chalets, Zenith hires British resort managers, chalet hosts and drivers, who are on British employment contracts, and spend the winter season in France.

Katie Waddington says that, with a UK outside the EU, Zenith would probably have to establish a French company to employ its staff and would pay more in French taxes. This, too, would force up the price of your holiday.

"The process we use to second our staff could be kept in place if we rejoined the European Free Trade Agreement" she adds, "however we would have to abide by the legislation and accept the trading requirements of the EU for this."

A source inside one of Britain's biggest ski tour operators told PlanetSKI that employing British staff in Europe was already a battle and would probably become "absolutely impossible".

The source, who asked not to be identified, cited the situation in Switzerland, which is outside the EU. 

British firms are now forced to pay staff the Swiss minimum wage,  - roughly £32 an hour.  As a result, chalet companies have been pulling out of the country in their droves.

We reported on the issue back in 2014 on PanetSKI as most UK operators pulled out of Switzerland.

Would France go the way of SwitzerlandWould France go the way of Switzerland?
















And then there is the threat to the good old British cuppa.

Yes, even that could be at risk, according to Nick Morgan, founder of the chalet company Le Ski.

"Every season we buy something like 25,000 Yorkshire Tea bags to export in a big lorry," he says, explaining that  "the French are quite good at wine but they can't make tea."


"If we didn't have membership of the EU and there were trade tariffs - which there almost certainly would be - we would  have to pay import duty on our Yorkshire tea-bags."

Remembering what it was like before free trade agreements were in place, Nick says he was once stopped at Boulogne with some bed sheets and vacuum cleaners he was taking to his chalets. 

He wasn't allowed into France with them until he'd returned to Dover, and paid both the import duty and a fine.

Now Le Ski hires a lorry at the start of the season to take out its teabags - and a few other items.

The Le Ski lorryThe Le Ski lorry














Stocking up for winterStocking up for winter















The world's biggest tourism business is TUI, whose UK ski brands include Crystal Ski and Thomson.

It provided PlanetSKI with a statement. 

It's couched in diplomatic language, but it's pretty clear where the company stands. 

"Businesses like TUI with a strong foothold and more than five million holidaymakers per annum in the UK will benefit from Britain keeping its close ties with the EU.

"The tourism industry in the UK and millions of British holidaymakers also strongly benefit from the common European market and the UK being part of it."

ABTA, the British association of travel agents and tour operators, published a report on Brexit in March.

It highlights some of the benefits EU regulations have given holidaymakers. 

It warns that these benefits could eventually go,  if we leave the EU. 

They include:

  • financial protection for package holidays
  • compensation for flight delays
  • access to free health cover through the European Health Insurance Card
  • caps on mobile phone charges
  • 'open skies' across the EU, resulting in more routes, more airlines, and lower fares

ABTA's Chief Executive, Mark Tanzer, says a vote to leave means uncertainty and possibly increased costs.

"We recognise that people will approach this referendum by considering many factors - personal, professional, and economic - before casting their vote," he says.

"ABTA has considered what a vote to leave the EU might mean purely from a travel perspective. Our view is that the potential risks and downsides are not matched by an equal upside for the traveller."

Abta Brexit InfographicAbta Brexit Infographic
















You can download the full ABTA report here. 

It seems to PlanetSKI that one thing is certain. 

And that is simple - Nothing is certain.

No-one can be sure what will happen if the UK votes to leave the EU, and any changes won't come overnight.

The people who get us to the mountains every winter may be well be fed up at the prospect, but they're won't be pulling up the drawbridge.

As one told us:  "We're not planning to shut up shop after Brexit!"


Others in the snowsport industry have sent us their views since we first posted this article on Monday:

The British Association of Snowsport Instructors, BASI:

"Securing working rights for BASI members in the EU is a key issue for BASI. If the UK leaves and the UK Government adopts a firm stance on immigration policy there is a risk that EU countries may well respond in a similar manner and the current relatively free movement of workers from the UK to EU would be made more difficult. BASI supports the free movement of workers and services as it underpins employment opportunities for many of our  British BASI Members and we do not want to see this eroded.   Whilst  Brexit would not affect the recognition of BASI qualifications (these are currently recognised Internationally), Brexit may impact the movement of UK nationals wishing to work in EU countries and this is a concern to us.
BASI has been consulting with relevant MEP's to raise BASI's concerns. Andrew Lockerbie and Dave Renouf met with Catherine Stiller MEP to brief her on the status of current members working within the EU.  Catherine is currently vice chair of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (2014- ) and is a substitute on the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (2009- ). As well as asking for her support to ensure that consideration will be given to all qualification levels within any Delegated Act that emerges, BASI took the opportunity to posse 2 key questions to Catherine:
1. In the event of a worst case scenario (Britain leaves Europe) how will we secure the working rights of our members in European countries?
2. What are the implications for British owned and run ski schools in France?
Her current position on these two topics are "there are lots of unknowns and it is difficult to give clear answers at this stage". However, an exit would likely put the UK in a similar situation to the likes of Norway and other non EU countries who have bi-lateral trade agreements with Europe. The view on employment is that in the short term there is likely to be a continuation of the status quo, but the UK would no longer have any say on working regulations for the future and confirmed that working agreements in the future would have be to be negotiated bilaterally with each country.
BASI has historically worked bi-laterally with EU Member states on working rights and we will continue to do so in the interests of all our Members."

Nick Williams, MD Mountain Heaven:

"I think it would make life very difficult however  I really  think it would take a number of years for major impacts to take place as there are many hundreds of thousands of French and other EU people working here plus I really think that we would all find a way around BUT it's true that holidays would become more expensive which will mean less people skiing - a major hit for the big French ski resorts, chalet owners etc. etc.  So better book early and fix your holiday price now!!"

Dan Fox, MD Skiweekends:

"Unfortunately, none of us know for sure what will happen, I don't know a single UK outbound holiday company who think there are any positives.
The weakening pound will quite easily add 10% or more to the cost of holidays and that's before considering the cost of being abroad. The cost of employing UK staff overseas will become inhibitive for many companies, making chalets holidays disproportionately expensive. Will your UK medical card be accepted, if not your insurance will go up. Flights from the UK will go up as in relative terms, UK based airlines will be paying more for landing fees and fuel. The list really goes on.
There is of course another side to this.  If you bring guests into the UK, you could be in for a boom.  A week pound will mean that UK hotels will be able to sell rooms at top GBP rates to visiting tourists.  This means that if you want to Stay-cation it will also probably cost you more than last summer and you may find UK holiday locations busier than ever."

Julian Griffiths, Founder European Snowsport:

"We at EuropeanSnowsport the leading ski school in Verbier, Zermatt, Chamonix and St Moritz employ nearly 100 Qualified British ski instructors in Switzerland which is not in the EU, 85 of them can't work in France. Why? Because the EU have compromised, accommodated, given-in-to and helped France and its governments protect the ESF.  Protectioism plain and simple.  BASI and by extension the UK government unfortunately has gone along with because it's most influential members work in France and wish to maintain the status Quo.

So the reality is that we ( ski instructors ) do more trade in services outside the EU but in European than we do inside it. It's an absurd situation. So I'm for Brexit if it means shocking the rest of the EU into realising the free market in services and not just turning it into another protectionist tool to pander to and sustain some socialist outdated global vision of regional trade blocks and static disengaged labour forces. I think the UK can do a proper re-negotiation after a no vote.  As for ES we won't be effected because Switzerland is a country which respects it's treaties and its obligations and doesn't commit to anything it can't deliver."

Richard Sinclair, MD at SNO:

1.  The big danger of Brexit is that it will lead to uncertainty, which means reduced confidence and thenceforth investment and growth, including job creation.
2. The effects on luxury and corporate travel will likely be more pronouncedly negative.  If the City is outside the EU, most banks and large financial institutions will be forced to open a new European head office, as they must have one inside the EU financial regulatory framework.  This will reduce the London offices to mere national hubs rather than the current European hubs they are now.
As the global big hitters move to their new EU hubs (in Germany most likely), we can expect corporate and high-end/lux travel budgets to migrate with them.
3. For the average consumer, the main costs to increase may initially be that of travel health care, as we won't be entitled to healthcare when we're travelling in the EU.
4. Bigger damage will likely be done to our travel-tech industry.  The abolition of EU data roaming charges will not apply to UK networks and they will leap at the chance of a retrograde step back to profiteering from connected travellers.  The result being that our consumers will be less likely to use the bleeding edge heavily networked travel technology, and so our travel tech startups will be less likely to succeed.  Imagine anyone using HotelsTonight if they're paying £3.50 per MB just to browse?  I hope they've registered and .es and .fr because the part of their business would likely suffer.

What do you think?  Please comment over on the PlanetSKI Facebook page and everyone's view is very welcome.  

Here are comments from our readers on social media:

Duncan Holburn: "Amazing - every single negative quoted sounds like a real positive to a real skier! A real European experience, no more Anglo peasants expecting Bognor on snow, a visa to limit and reduce the numbers, may even start to get towards as pleasant as N. America - well maybe not, no manners in Europe! What is all the fuss about? We ski America, Canada, Japan and even The Lebanon, if Europe is daft enough not to want us well so what? Switzerland won't care and we can still go there. Doubt the Austrians will put up with the EU saying we cannt go, nor actually really the Italiens - as per usual the problem is the French. Nothing ever works with the French involved, Europe can never work with the French involved. NATO works because they aren't in it, the whole world can come together and form new nations in North America, but not the French, they have to divide themselves off, separate and have Quebec! Just imagine Europe without the French! One parliament - not two we all have to pay for, one language - the one the rest of the world is adopting as the global language of business, and as a result real freedom of movement and employment! No Europe is a dead duck so long as the French are involved. Why not just demand the Alps as reparations for rescuing them the last two times they annoyed the Germans with thier arrogance and greed! Next time, let's leave the Germans to it and do a deal to take the Alps in order to stay out of it!"

Martin Bell (yes that one!): "It might be good for Scottish snowsports - which are still part of British snowsports."

Charlotte Swift: "Likely to be a disaster for all of us living and working in the Alps. We'd probably have to get work permits, which are a major hassle."

Chris Thompson: "Higher prices, getting a Visa and, god forbid, having to drink Lipton Yellow tea!"

Mark Heeley: "Total scaremongering. There is no evidence either way that trade tariffs would be applied. Britain accounts for 25% of ski tourism into France and if that is put at risk by us leaving the EU, it should be that adjustments be made by the industry to ensure normal business. The EU administration is an outdated institution and these sort of articles paint a gloomy picture when we now live in the era of digital trade and the Internet."

Avoriaz, FranceHow may things change in the Alps?
















The Clash video aptly sums up the conundrum some may have - "Should I stay or should I go".

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.

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