What does France’s travel ban mean for UK holiday plans?

As ban takes effect from midnight, UK travel operators say news is ‘devastating for ski industry’

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First published on Thu 16 Dec 2021 08.57 EST

France has banned all non-essential travel from the UK, starting on Friday night. We explain what it means if you have planned to visit over the festive period.

What’s happening?

All tourist travel from the UK to France is off until further notice. The ban takes effect at 11pm UK time on Friday 17 December or midnight in Paris. All tourism-based travel for UK citizens, including visits to family and friends in France, is off – for now at least. French citizens, partners and children are still allowed to travel to France for visits.

What does this mean for my Christmas ski trip?

Christmas and new year ski holiday plans have been thrown into disarray, and operators have been left scrambling to find alternative trips for British skiers who had hoped to visit the slopes in the next two weeks. The coming weeks are traditionally some of the busiest of the season.

One outcome could be that trips are switched to other Alpine destinations, if there are flights and hotel rooms available – a big if. Right now, it looks as if a great many trips will be cancelled.

Crystal Ski, one of the biggest providers, says: “We’re aware that the French government has today announced a ban on UK travellers entering France. We’ll be in contact with customers shortly.”

Nick Morgan, the managing director of Le Ski, which has been operating chalets in the French Alps for 40 years, says guests should wait for a phone call to discuss their options.

“This is being done strictly in date of departure order,” he says.

If I can’t travel will I get a refund?

Those with package tours – who bought flights and accommodation together – are protected by Atol, meaning you will get a full refund when the tour operator is forced to cancel. As happened previously, tour firms may ask customers to defer their booking but you are under no obligation to do so.

Those offered an alternative trip may be entitled to compensation if it is not of the same quality. Others may be asked for upgrade fees.

What if I booked my own travel and accommodation?

Those who booked their own trips will be relying on the provider’s terms and conditions. Most people will have booked flexible tickets and face having to reschedule their trips. EasyJet is offering free switches to alternative flights up until two hours before departure.

Eurostar said it would offer passengers forced to cancel a fee-free exchange or an e-voucher.

Those with hotel bookings need to check their terms and hope that cancellation is allowed. Airbnb customers will be relying on their host’s chosen cancellation terms. Those cancelling at the very last minute will often lose most or all their booking cost.

Those with non-refundable ferry tickets will probably have to accept vouchers to rebook the trip. However, Brittany Ferries said on Thursday: “We’re encouraging customers to change their bookings to a later date if they can, but we’ll refund those who’d prefer not to.”

Will my travel insurance pay up?

A handful of insurers introduced Covid cover this year, and if you bought one of those policies you should check its terms. Most of the cheaper travel policies will not cover cancellations as a result of these last-minute changes.

Could this be the end of some travel firms?

Charles Owen, the director of SBIT, a group of more than 200 British tour companies, has called the news “devastating for the UK ski industry”.

“After 21 months of being closed due to the pandemic, this is yet another hammer blow to the industry. The UK government urgently needs to engage with industry leaders and introduce support measures immediately.”

Abta’s chief executive, Mark Tanzer, says the temporary ban on most travel from the UK will come as a “hammer blow” to the winter travel industry, which was already under extreme pressure.

“Travel businesses have reported turnover at just 22% of pre-pandemic levels following two years of government-imposed restrictions and consumer confidence in overseas travel has been hit hard.”

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