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Ski bookings surge as France relaxes travel restrictions for Brits
13 January 2022, 18:57
Ski bookings to France have seen a huge spike as the country prepares to reopen its borders to British tourists on Friday.
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It comes after France's tourism minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne announced that travel restrictions for British holidaymakers would be lifted in the morning.
The move will give a major boost to the travel sector, with thousands who have booked ski holidays in France expected to make the trip across the Channel in the coming weeks.
Eurostar is among the companies having ramped up its services to deal with the growing demand.
Those who are fully vaccinated will be allowed to enter the country if they have proof of a negative Covid test taken within 24 hours of departure, with the requirement to isolate on arrival being scrapped.
People who are not fully vaccinated will continue to need a "compelling reason" to enter France from the UK, Mr Lemoyne said.
Following the news, Travel Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted: "I've just spoken to my opposite number [Mr Djebbari] who confirms that, given the UK's falling infection rate, France will be lifting their ban on British tourists.
"A negative Covid test will still be required."
Airline Jet2 said it had seen a "sharp and immediate" spike in bookings since France confirmed the lifting of restrictions.
"This is the positive news that skiers and snowboarders have been looking forward to, and the spike in bookings for ski flights has been both sharp and immediate," Chief executive Steve Heapy said.
"Snow conditions in the French Alps are said to be excellent, meaning our customers are jumping at the chance to get back on the slopes and we are very pleased to be flying them there again from next weekend onwards.
"This is yet more great news for the travel industry and further reinforces our already strong belief that 2022 is a year to look forward to with real confidence."
Meanwhile, Chris Logan, managing director of Britain's biggest winter sports operator Crystal Ski, said he was "delighted" by the announcement after a "challenging start to the season".
He added: "I'm feeling really optimistic. We've seen a steady increase in searches and bookings in the last two weeks.
"Bookings to France doubled yesterday - even before the announcement - and we would expect to see another very positive uptick now it's official."
Brighton-based tour operator Ski Beat said phones were "ringing off the hook" after reports of the changes, with an "immediate surge in internet bookings", sales and marketing director Laura Hazell said.
The company is set to resume taking UK customers to France on Saturday.
A spokesman for travel trade organisation ABTA said: "France is one of the most popular destinations for UK holidaymakers.
"Thousands of people head there for ski breaks at this time of year, so this will be a huge relief."
The initial ban on UK tourists in France was introduced due to the rising number of Omicron cases, with it becoming the dominant strain in Britain in the lead up to the festive season.
French nationals were exempt from the rules. However, others needed to provide "compelling reasons" for entering the country.
A statement from French officials read at the time: "In the UK Government's own words, the UK is facing a 'tidal wave' of the Omicron variant in the coming days.
"In response to the extremely rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the UK, the Government is reinstating compelling reasons for travel to and from the UK, and strengthening the requirement for testing on departure and arrival."