As we end week six of the UK lockdown, it might sometimes seem as if it’s never going to end, but there has been some positivity this week:

France has announced ‘progressive and controlled’ exit plan

Individual sports will be allowed from 11 May, as well as the right to travel up to 100km.

The second stage of ‘déconfinement’ will be on a ‘traffic light’ system, based on how different regions rate for certain parameters. The actual zones will be announced on 07 May, but currently all mountain regions look likely to be green or amber.

For French ski resorts, this means many are anticipating that a summer opening may well be possible, albeit under social distancing guidelines.

Lifts to open again in Switzerland in June

From the same date, Switzerland is allowing sport that doesn’t involve ‘physical contact’, sports facilities for training.

Of more interest is that from 08 June, ‘mountain transport services’ will be allowed to open (as well as swimming pools, cinemas and theatres).

‘Mountain transport services’ must be ski lifts, which means that glacier resorts such as Zermatt and Saas Fee could open again, with the usual social distancing caveat.

The mountains may be the ‘Destination du Jour’ this summer

As people emerge from lockdown around Europe there’s a sense from ski resorts that the mountains will be a destination in demand.

As the desire to avoid crowded places continues this will create opportunities for places offering space, such as the mountains where social distancing is easy to implement.

The ski industry is finding it tough…

This will all be welcome news to UK ski companies, as our own industry survey, in conjunction with Ski Press, revealed the struggle many are facing. You can read the survey in full here, but the results were shocking:

The results showed that almost a quarter fear going out of business, 60% have furloughed staff and 64% are experiencing reduced sales for next winter.

…but next season is still many months away

On the positive side, in ski we are lucky that our product does not start up again until December and demand for travel is stronger the further into the future we go

Research by Sojern shows that the volume of search for hotel rooms is down almost 100% YOY for this summer, but that gap drops the further ahead the time window is (although still significantly down)

How might social distancing work in ski resorts?

More positively, 93% believe ski resorts will only open for next season, but most expect social distancing restrictions to be in place. What will that mean in practice in a ski resort?

When Mt Baldy recently opened in the States, they restricted uplift to four skiers every ten minutes. That might be fine for end-of-season skiing in a small ski resort, but how will this work in France in February half term?

Will tour operators have to buy from a quota of lift passes? Holidays are already being sold now for peak weeks: might guests book a holiday, but have their skiing restricted?

Many northern resorts will be paying close attention to how destinations ‘down under’ and glaciers in Europe open their resorts this summer to see what can be learned from social distancing on the slopes in practice.

Will Brits even be able to travel to Europe?

Our survey showed that 80% of respondents are worried about future restrictions on UK passport holders. It seems likely that the UK will be one of the latter countries to be allowed access to the continent.

Tourism this summer will primarily be domestic across Europe, with Schengen Treaty countries (including Britain, according to this update) added first, before other neighbouring countries with low infection rates.

In addition, any Brits looking to go away may be hamstrung by a possible 14 quarantine required on return from overseas.

“In every period of carnage there is opportunity”

This was our favourite quote from Motex – The Mountain Travel Exchange – which took place online this week.

Many ideas were exchanged in the series of webinars, but we really liked Chris Thompson’s idea of contacting clients by Zoom.

Previously you would never have used video calls to consult or help sell your holidays, but this is the ‘new normal’. Why not be the first and gain a lead on your competitors by building a closer bond with and a better offer to your customers?

Expect to see branded face masks

Another excellent webinar I attended this week was organised by MTS (Mountain Travel Symposium) and included some excellent ideas on ‘How to Re-Emerge and Build Trust in a post-Covid World’.

I was interested to see one of Lindsey Dewitte’s ideas of producing branded facemasks to give as commemorative gifts to guests was already in progress in Val Thorens.

Should you be offering more self-drive options?

Another webinar, this time from Phocuswright, revealed a high level of concern about flying in the UK. It seems that for any year this is the year to be offering your guests alternatives to flying.

While I would love to suggest that more people will Ski Flight Free, driving is the only way that customers will be able to fully control their travel environment and with fuel at a lower cost than for years.

Is it time to up your hygiene standards?

In our ‘new normal’, customers are going to be looking more closely at hygiene standards. The French hospitality industry is already looking at creating a new ‘covid ready’ accreditation to assure standards.

Studies have shown that British are most concerned about becoming ill at their destination. Why not designate your own ‘Chief Health and Safety Officer’ and let your customers know about their role.

Last week, Marriott International announced new enhanced standards, including spraying hotel rooms with disinfectant after every guest stay. Airbnb has also confirmed they will be introducing their own new high Coronavirus standard of cleaning for hosts.

It also turns out that Trump was almost right. Maybe you should be investing in one of these:

Nothing is fixed

These are just ideas. Everything is dynamic. Nothing is fixed. As they are saying in France just now:

“Beaucoup de choses vont se décider ces prochaines semaines…”