Following on from last week’s exciting vaccine news, made even better by the announcement that Moderna in the US (which is part funded by none other than Dolly Parton) has also created an effective Covid vaccine, a lot of us are starting to believe we may actually get some snow time this winter. Result. 

Inghams reported a 50% uptake in consumer interest this week, while a Club Med survey showed half of British skiers and snowboarders would still head to the mountains even if they had to quarantine when they got back. Their report also backed up what I’ve been saying about more of us than ever planning to drive this year, and to book last minute. The overall theme was that the pent-up demand for a winter holiday is clearly huge.

But we’re still at the mercy of not just the virus and lockdown but the findings of the government’s Global Travel Taskforce, which was meant to report back this month, but hasn’t yet.

Here’s what I think needs to happen:

We need a reliable and affordable testing regime for international travel that will significantly reduce quarantine times, ideally down to a week or less (and nb this is still only where travel corridors between countries are in play, keep checking the government FCO advice here: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice).

The Indy has a good explainer on testing as it stands, including the different types, costs and timelines here: https://www.independent.co.uk/…/pcr-test-flight-covid…

The cheapest test they list is still £125, so £500 for a family of four, too much in my view to be fair. NB also steer clear of the old fake blackmarket tests that the Washington Post reported on this week… https://www.washingtonpost.com/…/fake-tests-covid-flights/

Ideally, airport (and international train/ferry terminal) testing should be free. Or flights could include free Covid tests (if you test positive you don’t board…) as a United Airlines flight from New York to Heathrow did this week, which bodes well. Here’s the full story: https://edition.cnn.com/…/quest-united…/index.html

If we do have to pay, I like this neat idea from Sofitel at Heathrow, where they are running a test & rest deal, where you get tested the night before you fly when you arrive at the hotel, and the test price is included in your stay. It pretty much ends up

costing the same as the current airport test and would be great for early morning departures. Here’s the Sofitel link https://all.accor.com/…/owm012887-001-test-and-rest.en… and more hotel chains/airlines/travel companies getting creative like this is a good plan in my view.

I would also like to see mass testing in ski resorts themselves, so a resort would be able to say we’re regularly testing our lift workers, and hotel and bar staff, so everyone can move about (relatively) freely and mini-outbreaks are caught in their tracks. I know Ischgl and Val Thorens have said they plan to do this, see Ischgl’s plans here (they’re also giving out free covid-secure face scarves with lift passes) https://www.ischgl.com/…/Active…/Winter-2020-21-COVID-19 & read about VT here (as tweeted by Skipedia) https://www.ledauphine.com/…/val-thorens-prete-a… & here: https://www.valthorens.com/…/useful…/covid-19-valthorens

As the season goes on, I expect more people will want to factor that into their resort choice, so more resorts will follow suit.

I also think all travel operators, and resorts and transport companies, need to be offering full refunds up to the last minute. A lot are already but everyone should, and you shouldn’t book with those who don’t. And as always remember the good guys from last winter, the trustworthy companies, who refunded you right away. They deserve your business now. Like Intersport who are again offering full last-minute refunds for ski and snowboard hire and hefty discounts if you book now: https://www.intersport-rent.fr/en/

Finally, I mentioned last week this winter is going to be a last minute bundle, so it is good to do some prep now. For when lockdown and the FCO no travel advice is lifted, and hopefully quarantine is cut too. If quarantine becomes a week that first week of the Easter holidays could be in play for families now, eg travelling out Good Friday or Saturday 3rd April, having a week of shred heaven, then quarantining for a week when you get home before the kids go back to school. I’ll get into this more next week but there’s no harm in doing a recce on timings and resorts now.