Bookings for skiing holidays to France surged on Thursday as the country finally announced it would lift its ban on UK holidaymakers.
From Friday morning, British travellers who are fully vaccinated will be allowed to enter France if they have evidence of a negative coronavirus test taken within 24 hours of departure. Full details will be published in a decree on Friday.
The news will come as a huge relief to tens of thousands of Britons who had already booked skiing holidays in France in February.
After Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, the French tourism minister, announced the imminent lifting of restrictions, all-inclusive ski giant Club Med reported a 60 per cent increase in web traffic.
Club Med said sales to France had skyrocketed in the past few days as it became clear that the ban would be lifted, with the country now its best-selling destination.
Estelle Giraudeau, a managing director at Club Med, said: "This has saved the season. After two years away from the slopes, Britons are desperate to get back to France and some of the most loved ski domains in Europe – and this is the final barrier to be removed."
Businesses in French ski resorts are also preparing for the "unprecedented demand". Ski instructor booking platform Maison Sport is forecasting a 300 per cent rise in bookings over the next two weeks.
Crystal Ski Holidays, a leading UK ski operator, said that bookings for ski holidays to France doubled on Thursday – before the announcement that the country would end its UK travel ban.
The return of British holidaymakers will provide a welcome boost to the French economy. Pre-pandemic UK tourism to France was worth €8.4 billion, according to data from The World Travel and Tourism Council.
Gilles Leonard, the director of Méribel, a popular resort for British skiers, said: "We are absolutely delighted to be able to welcome visitors from the UK again. Méribel was created by a Scotsman, Peter Lindsay, in 1938, and since then we have enjoyed a very close relationship with our British friends."
However, amid the celebrations, some in the travel industry lamented that the French ban had continued for so long.
Paul Charles, of travel consultancy The PC Agency and a former director of Eurostar, said: "At last France has reversed its damaging position on entry for UK visitors… Border closures never, ever work – they don’t prevent infection spread and they don’t help economies.
"I hope the French look back at the policy and realise that it achieved absolutely nothing, apart from cause immense emotional and financial stress on both sides of the Channel."