It could have been a glimmer of hope for many destinations and travel operators

Countries in Europe that are dependent upon the ski season in the winter months of the year are reluctantly closing in fear of increased Covid-19 infection rates. This is a big blow as in a year in which travel has been severely impacted by the pandemic, winter ski holidays could have helped the European travel space regain some momentum.

At the start of the year, many travellers were under the impression that by the end of 2020 travel restrictions would have lifted and international travel will be back to normal levels. Due to this, many travellers booked a winter break in 2020/21, and a popular holiday in winter is to hit the slopes in Europe.

Previously this year, ski resorts have been lucky in that restrictions came into place in March, at the end of the ski season so it was only minimally affected. With the hope that restrictions could be lifted by the end of the year, they could have been lucky once more but that is not the reality.

A lack of unified approach across Europe risks making the situation worse

There have been disagreements across the EU and wider Europe with regards to keeping the resorts open for use during critical months, with calls for a Europe-wide shutdown of winter sports until 10 January 2021. Germany, Italy and France are in favour of resort closure while Austria and Switzerland are afraid of the economic damage resort closure will inflict on the economy.

This lack of a unified approach could become a problem, as many of these ski resorts lie across country borders, where visitation to more than one country on one ski trip is likely. If different countries have different rules, it can limit the ski holiday and reduce the number of activities that can take place.

France has implemented stricter measures such as spot border checks to stop citizens traveling across the border to neighbouring Switzerland, which has kept ski resorts open. Switzerland is not part of the EU and therefore does not have to follow any EU-based rules. Travellers could face quarantine on their return if they are caught.

Some EU members, Bulgaria, Spain and Austria are keen to not shut their slopes entirely. In Austria, resorts are open just to locals from 24 December 2020, with hotels closed until at least 7 January 2021, when half of the season has already passed.

Destinations will suffer, but intermediaries will also be damaged

Travel intermediaries are especially important in the ski holiday sector. Many travellers book with a ski holiday specific tour operator as arranging all components of a ski holiday, such as equipment hire, ski lift passes, meals, accommodation, flights and transfers is more complicated than a regular holiday and is made much easier with a specialist tour operator.

These tour operators rely directly on the European ski season being successful, including substantial levels of snowfall, and are completely dependent upon the winter months of the year for trips to take place. If restrictions last for the duration of the season, it will be extremely detrimental and could cause casualties in the industry.