France has reopened its borders to British tourists after ministers in Paris eased restrictions on non-essential travel.
From this morning, Britons travelling to the country only need to show proof of vaccination and a negative test taken no more than 24 hours before departure. The requirements for 48-hour quarantine on arrival and a compelling reason to enter the country have been dropped.
Alexandre Holroyd, the French MP responsible for expats living in the UK, confirmed the news and thanked Jean Castex, the French prime minister, for listening to his requests.
The news is a boost for holiday- makers who have booked a skiing trip to France. It is the UK’s most popular winter sports destination, attracting about one million skiers a year.
The French border closed to holidaymakers from the UK on December 18 as ministers in Paris sought to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant, but since the decision was made the number of Covid cases in France has soared. The country recorded more than 360,000 new infections yesterday.
“We waited impatiently for this decision and are delighted to welcome our British clients again,” Vincent Lalanne, director of the Val Thorens office of tourism, said. “The snow conditions are exceptional so we hope to see them en masse from this weekend onwards.”
Many French resorts reported that their visitor numbers had plummeted because of the restrictions and that they were suffering financially. They are now preparing for the return of British holidaymakers, especially over the February half term.
Eurostar said that it would increase the number of services to meet demand. Airlines and tour operators also reported a sharp increase in bookings.
Nick Morgan, managing director of Le Ski, said that it was looking at the possibility of flying Britons to its 33 chalets in the French Alps from as early as Sunday. Other operators, such as Brighton-based Ski Beat, are preparing to fly their first guests tomorrow.
Chris Logan, managing director of Crystal Ski Holidays, Britain’s biggest winter sports operator, said: “Like the rest of the ski community, I’m delighted that we’ll be able to hit the slopes in France once again. Bookings to France doubled [yesterday] even before the announcement and we would expect to see another very positive uptick now that it’s official.”
From Saturday, booster jabs will be mandatory for anyone aged 18 to 64 who has been fully vaccinated for more than seven months. Boosters are a requirement for a pass sanitaire, which is used to enter bars, restaurants, museums and ski lifts, among other public venues in France.
Charles Owen, managing director of Seasonal Businesses in Travel, which represents ski companies, said: “This is very welcome news not only for the thousands of UK holidaymakers and people visiting friends and family in France, but also for the thousands of UK ski tour operators that have been in an effective shutdown for 22 months.”
Last week travel rules in Britain were eased by ministers, including scrapping the need for passengers to take a test before travelling to the UK.
The government also removed the requirement for a PCR test on or before day two after arrival, replacing it with a cheaper lateral flow test. The change came into effect on Sunday. The need to quarantine before receiving a negative result has also been removed.