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Red tape is threatening the success of the French ski sector in the face of strong competition from other countries, according to a number of local officials and leaders of industry groups. Once the world’s most popular ski destination, France has been overtaken by both the US and Austria in the last two seasons.
Michel Bouvard, deputy head of the Savoy departmental council, said France must strive to encourage more investment, and this involves removing bureaucratic hurdles. “French resorts face growing competition. If France wants to stay in the race, it must meet three challenges: it must renew its customer base, increase investment and adapt to the lack of snow. Today, administrative issues are causing us to lose years. Bureaucratic procedures must be simplified so we can be more flexible,” he said.
France is struggling to attract skiers from Germany, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, who often go to Austria. Laurent Reynaud of the skiing industry body, Domaines Skiables de France, told the UK’s Daily Telegraph: “Skiing is the national pride of Austria and the Austrians are making huge efforts to develop it.”
Austrian resorts are more easily accessible, and France needs to do more to improve transport links, critics say. The country also has an image of being expensive and upmarket, with resorts such as Courchevel, Val d’Isère or Mégève taking the limelight over cheaper destinations.
Other critics blame both the government and the industry for years of complacency. Dominique Marcel, head of the ski resort operator Compagnie des Alpes, said: “For a long time, we thought it was enough to have the Alps, Mont Blanc and snow to be sheltered from any shortcomings. But that doesn’t work any more. Problems of accommodation, transport, crowds and the quality of restaurants are all factors that are important to customers.”
Red tape and an over-eagerness to tax short-term lets are also a problem, Mr Reynaud said: “More than half the number of beds at French resorts are in holiday homes that are only occupied for an average of three weeks a year. Each year the number of beds available for rentals goes down by about 3,000. We must make it easier for people to rent out their apartments.”
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