Strikes Announced for French Ski Resorts Could Affect Peak Ski Season

Julia Schneemann | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Courchevel ski resort, host to the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in February 2023 | Picture: courchevel_officiel Instagram Page

Two of the biggest French Unions representing workers in ski resorts, ‘Force Ouvrièr’ and ‘Confédération Général du Travail,’ have announced unlimited strikes starting from January 31, 2023. Mass protests began in 230 French cities, including Paris, Marseille, Nice, and Toulouse, on Thursday and Saturday last week, January 19 and 21, 2023, with an estimated 1.5 million people across the country participating in the strike actions.

The underlying reason for the strikes was the pension reforms announced by prime minister Elisabeth Borne last week. French president Macron has been trying to reform the pension system for several years. Still, any proposed reforms have always been met with resistance, and all efforts were postponed during the pandemic. The announcement last week to raise the minimum age from 62 to 64 has been met with large-scale protests unseen since the student protests in 1968. The French government estimates that the pension system will be in deficit by €14 billion ($15.3 billion) by 2030 if the reforms are not implemented. At the same time, the government proposes an increase of the minimum monthly pension to €1,200 ($1,300).

Mont Blanc Chamonix, France | Picture: ChamonixMontBlanc Instagram Page

Strikes have hit every public sector, from schools to transport to electricity, and will be taken to the ski fields next week on January 31, 2023. This does not necessarily mean that strikes will continue after that, and the head of ‘Force Ouvrièr,’ Eric Becker, said in a statement that the current plan is for ski lifts to operate normally on February 1, 2023. Nevertheless, operations could be disrupted if there are weekly strikes, and the timing could not be worse. The French mid-term break starts February 4, 2023, and British schools break from February 11-25, 2023. The announcements by both unions described the strikes as ‘unlimited,’ and Eric Becker stated in the French news, “We decided to call for strikes during the February holiday because demands are listened to more during this period,” so disruptions seem likely.

Courchevel and Méribél will also host the FIS Alpine Ski World Championships from February 6-19, 2023, and the FIS Alpine World Cup from March 16-20, 2023. Disruptions could damage Courchevel and Méribél’s long-term image and question the resorts’ ability to hold international sporting events.

French ski resorts see about 55 million visitors annually, and roughly 25% are international visitors, the largest of which comes from the UK. Ski resorts in France generate about €1.5 billion ($1.64 billion) in annual revenues. After two years of disruptions and closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic, striking during the peak ski season seems somewhat risky and could endanger jobs long-term. Disruptions to the operation of the French resorts resulting from the announced strikes could have significant repercussions, especially after the below-average start to the ski season due to limited snowfall in December. It could potentially cause British tourists to holiday in Austria or Switzerland instead, and French ski resorts are still reeling from the pandemic when the government had to pay subsidies after a ban on British tourists to France due to the Omicron variant. Larger ski resorts, such as Courchevel, Méribél, or Val d’Isère, have reported more than 15% British tourists and could be hardest hit if skiers from the UK ski cancel their bookings as a result of the strike actions.

Val d’Isere snowy
Snowy Val d’Isere | Picture: Valdisere Instagram Page

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