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Ski industry puts on brave face
Sunday July 3, 2016 - Email this article to a friend

As the dust settles over the initial impact of Brexit the snowsports industry is preparing for life in a new world. The stakes are high as the vast majority of us ski in EU countries and the change will affect us all.

For many in the UK snowsports world, whether holidaymakers or those who work in the snowsports industry, it is a strange time.

A very strange time.

Everything has changed and yet nothing has changed.

People are still booking ski holidays with many ski tour operators reporting a busy period since Brexit.

The wild fluctuations in the exchange rate have stabilised.

"We have had a good week with bookings for next winter doing well - prices remain the same, we are not adding any surcharges and people are looking forward to the winter ahead," said a spokeswoman for Crystal Ski, Marion Telsnig.  

Overall holiday prices are the same and many operators have pledged to keep prices as they are, or are offering special deals.

The tour operator, Mountain Heaven, is offering a guaranteed minimum exchange rate for guests buying their lift passes through Mountain Heaven.

This applies to new bookings, which must be booked before the 31st August to qualify for the fixed minimum rate of 1.15 which is currently better than the Post Office tourist rate.

If the Pound recovers in the meantime guests will get still be able to get the better rate.

Mountain Heaven is also holding prices at last season's levels and introducing a 'No Surcharge' guarantee on existing bookings.
"In our catered chalets almost all meals are provided and airport transfers are included in the price. There are no nasty extras payable locally, such as tourist tax, so the majority of the holiday cost is payable in Sterling," said the managing director of Mountain Heaven, Nick Williams.

"By introducing the minimum exchange rate our guests know that they will not have to part with extra cash for lift passes should the Pound continue to drop. Guests will still need spending money, of course, but our chalets are so comfortable and offer unlimited wines, so there really is no need to go out," he added.
The exchange rate is the immediate concern for many skiers and snowboarders planning on a holiday next winter.

It fell sharply after the vote to leave and has rallied since, but remains around 10% lower.  

Against the Euro £100 is now worth £90 and it is down against the US Dollar and Swiss France that are seen as safe havens in times of crisis.

"The price freeze should alleviate uncertainty for those who have already booked, and gives prospective customers the advantage of booking with a stronger pre-referendum rates of exchange to get the most out of their holiday," said the Chief Operating Officer for Inghams, Paul Carter.
"We advise customers to book their holiday as soon as possible and add on any additional extras such as ski hire, tuition and ski passes to avoid future price rises caused by Brexit," he added.

In the political world some predict a long period of statement: an extended phony-war before Article 50, the rule that takes the UK out of the EU, is triggered and then 2-years of intense negotiations.

Some think the Prime Minister, whoever that may be, will not Trigger Article 50 for some time to come.

Theresa May have said there is no rush but the other potential Tory leader, Andrea Leadsome wants a quicker timetable.

Some comentators claim the EU will drag out any negotiations.

"We have to be clear about our negotiaition stance before triggering it because once we trigger it than all the processes start," Theresa May said on the TV programme, Peston on Sunday, last weekend.

Holiday sales have also done well to ski resorts outside the EU.

The Canadian resort of Kicking Horse in British Columbia, had a flurry of UK bookings in the last few days which is unusual, especially for this time of the year.

And yet there is deep worry and concern for the future in uncertain times.

The Association of Independent Tour Operators, AITO, has published a post-brexit survey of independent tour operators with people split.

50% of respondents predicted there would be a limited impact, 38% expected a great impact and 12.8% a huge impact.

By the winter of 2016/17 46% expected a great impact and 12.8% a huge impact.

Beyond next winter, 40% felt there would still be a great impact and 12.8% a huge impact.

The most immediate impact in the travel industry seems to be in aviation as carriers face difficult times ahead.

Higher prices next winter?Higher prices next winter?













Ryanair will take delivery of 50 new aircraft next year, but none is likely to come to the UK.

Ryanair predicts 4 months of 'considerable uncertainty' and said all future investment would be focused on Europe.

easyJet is reported to be considering moving its HQ from the Luton in the UK to a country within the EU.

The key thing for many is the exchange rate, but one senior finial analyst we have spoken to also predicts a significant impact on the Euro.

"We are in uncertain times in the UK and it is the same in Europe. Personally I would rather have Sterling at the moment than Euros," he said.

The alpine ski chaletThe alpine ski chalet













The key long-term factor for the UK ski industry is the free movement of labour as most tour operators employ British staff on British contracts in the main EU ski countries of France, Austria and Italy.
If that goes then perhaps local staff would be needed and the existing chalet model would need to change.

"If we are unable to easily employ British nationals in the future then we will move the company's base to France and employ EU nationals to be catered chalets hosts," said the managing director of the ski operator Mountain Heaven, Nick Williams, shortly after the Referendum result.

"We need to remember there are many good Greeks, Poles, Portuguese, Italians and even French who all speak good English and would make excellent chalet hosts," he added.

"We may well see that we negotiate for the European Economic Area, EEA and this would allow free movement that would allow a chalet program to continue. 2-years is a long time for much to be said, done and negotiated," said Katie Waddington from Zenith Holidays.

"It now depends on the negotiation and looking to make this glass half-full and not half-empty" she added.

But the biggest immediate unknown that will impact on the coming winter - the overall economic situation and confidence.

The Chancellor, George Osborne, has abandoned his target to restore government finances to a surplus by 2020.

He has warned there are rough times ahead and that the UK economy is showing "clear signs" of shock in the aftermath of the vote to leave the European Union and it is likely to worsen.

Back in the travel industry one member in the AITO survey, that took soundings from sun and snow operators, said they expected demand to fall by 20% over the next year.

Another said: "We can manage the weak pound; it's the weak demand that will be the problem."

This is where the winter tour operators will be focusing their attention through special offers, the security of a bonded package holiday and putting out positive messages.

We have had a seismic shift in Europe but snow will fall next winter and people will want to go skiing and snowboarding.

The challenge for the ski industry is to work in a different world, though people at the top of the industry are deeply worried.

Lets just hope we have plenty of snow next winter.

For our immediate report on Brexit as the result was known on June 24th then see there.

It was updated a few days later with this report.

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

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