Twenty-four days after France abruptly closed its frontiers to British visitors, anticipation is growing that the travel ban on the UK will soon end. One ski operator is so confident that it is selling winter sports trips for the coming weekend.
Since 20 December, British travellers have been banned from entering France except for “compelling reasons” – not including holidays and most business trips and family visits.
Anyone who is allowed to enter France must quarantine for 48 hours.
The measures were introduced at a time when rates of Covid-19 transmission in the UK were soaring in because of the Omicron variant. Since then new infections in France have also rocketed.
It was hoped the move would prove to be un disjoncteur (a circuit breaker) in place only for Christmas and New Year. The rules were slightly loosened last week, allowing for essential professional trips and transit en route to homes elsewhere in the EU.
But the ban on holidays is causing immense damage to the travel industry in both France – where British skiers are normally the leading source of overseas business – and the UK.
Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership, told The Independent: “I would like to say ‘merci’ to Emanuel Macron for putting travel companies that sell the UK’s largest outbound ski destination on the edge of a precipice.
“For the third season now the entire outbound ski market has been devastated.”
But changes are believed to be imminent, with fully vaccinated travellers once again admitted to France.
The south-east London firm Skiline.co.uk has sent out a marketing email saying: “We are expecting the French government to make an announcement this Wednesday to confirm that British vaccinated skiers can enter France from this Saturday 15 January.”
“If the announcement is made as we expect, you will be one of the few lucky skiers in France this weekend,” the company says.
Skiline promises: “If no announcement is made this Wednesday, we will refund your credit card before this Friday.”
Another company, SkiWeekends, is telling prospective customers: “Based on reliable government sources we are optimistic that the borders will be opened and that the 48-hour quarantine on arrival will be removed.”
The Independent understands that leading ferry lines have already drafted statements to be issued as soon as the travel ban is lifted.
Visitors will need to adhere to strict new rules requiring proof of a booster jab to access most venues, which currently applies only to people aged 65 and over.
From 15 January the requirement will be extended to everyone aged 18 or over.