It was however “very well started” regrets Jean-Marc Silva, director of France Montagnes, an organization which brings together 350 stations in the six French mountains. The snow was still there, but the abrupt end of the season on March 15, due to the coronavirus, sharply reduced the sector’s revenues. Usually around 11 billion euros, these revenues risk falling by 15% to 20%.
The impact varies from station to station. Those of medium and low altitude “had almost finished their season but the more you climb, the more the shortfall is important”, underlines Jean-Marc Silva.
For Val-Thorens, perched between 2300 and 3200 meters in the Tarentaise, which was to close on May 3, “it’s an economic earthquake”, summarizes to AFP its director Vincent Lalanne. The internationally renowned 25,000-bed station was “full until April 15”. “It is 35 to 40% of turnover lost, or 200 million euros”.
In the Northern Alps, which represent 70% of the ski market, Savoie Mont Blanc Tourisme has made its calculations: 800 million will not go into the boxes, with six million days of skiers not sold and ten million nights lost.
The operator of holiday clubs MMV, especially located in large resorts, lost 25% of its accommodation turnover, or 15 million euros, explains its president Jean-Marc Filippini.
And summer should not be the hoped-for salvation: “we make projections at least 30%, if we come out of confinement in early May”. A perspective that remains uncertain.
Sports stores strongly impacted
Another branch hit hard, sports stores: “90% of turnover depends on winter. The loss of activity is estimated at 100 million (out of 650)”, deplores Brice Blancard, Mountain Manager at the ‘Union Sport et Cycle, of which 1,200 stores are members.
These are generally structures with less than 10 employees, who will have to manage unsold stocks. But these traders, often well established, “will have the capacity to give up,” says Brice Blancard.
This will not be the case for all seasonal workers, accommodated at various brands depending on their employer. For the ski lifts and their 15,000 seasonal workers, the decision was made quickly: “we turned to short-time working,” says Laurent Reynaud, general delegate of Domaines skiables de France (DSF).
“We have worked from the commitments of the government. We are impatiently awaiting the official texts,” said Laurent Reynaud, noting that certain regional labor offices refused partial unemployment files despite government promises.
If DSF has not only used short-time working but also renewed contracts until April 15 to extend this protective status, other employers have been less scrupulous, especially in the hotel and catering industry, denounce the unions.
Pierre Didio, of FO Savoie, had to fight with some bosses from Tignes: “I explained to them that either they took the partial unemployment reimbursed by the State or they would pay the whole after a trial to the industrial tribunal”.
In these poorly unionized sectors, some seasonal workers, “young, even very young, do not know their rights: it is easy to clear them without causing any problems”, worries Isabelle Laurent of the CGT des Hautes-Alpes . She describes the ubiquitous situations of “employees left confined in a hotel without an employment contract, some of whom found themselves trapped up there!”. Not to mention the foreign workforce “released first, as of the announcements of the ban on school trips” from March 1.
“For all those who will not have had partial unemployment until the end of their contract, it will be difficult to arrive at the six months required since November 2019 to be entitled to an unemployment allowance”, insists Isabelle Laurent. This aspect of the unemployment benefit reform has not been postponed to September by the government.