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In a ‘devastating’ blow to British ski holidays, France is to tighten up restrictions on travel to and from Britain to slow the spread of the omicron variant.

“We will put in place a system of controls drastically tighter than the one we have already,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal told BFM-TV on Thursday evening, as both the UK and France report record numbers of cases.

Charles Owen, director of SBIT, a group of over 200 British companies operating in the mountains, 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.”

From midnight Saturday, or 11pm on Friday in the UK, the validity of Covid tests for arrivals in France will be reduced to 24 hours from 48 hours, Attal said –  there will also be a “requirement to have an essential reason to travel to, or come from, the UK, both for the unvaccinated and vaccinated… People cannot travel for touristic or professional reasons,” the government said in a statement. Arrivals will also have to isolate for seven days – reduced to 48 hours with proof of a negative test taken on arrival, at a cost to the traveller. 

The news comes as the ski season begins with thousands of Britons eager to return to the Alps for the first time in nearly two years. “I’m at a loss for words,” said Iain Martin, host of the Ski Podcast who is currently out in the French 3 Vallées ski area. 

“I feel for all those who have been counting down the days until their first ski holiday for almost two years, now forced to cancel at the last minute. For tour operators, it will be even worse. With record bookings leading into the season, but now empty properties, it’s the nightmare scenario.”

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