A Trip to the Alps – September 2020

Sep 24, 2020

Earlier in the month I decided to go out to the Alps as I wanted to see for myself what the situation was ‘on the ground’.

I’m fortunate in that having to quarantine on my return was not a hugely limiting factor. I felt it was well worth it to be able to pick the brains of local business owners and understand their perspective first-hand.

This was my third time abroad since July, and each time I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the local attitude and behaviour towards the safety measures in place throughout continental Europe.

If you’re considering a trip of your own, or if you’re interested in how business is looking over in the Alps, here are my observations.

Travel and transport

I travelled by Eurotunnel in my own car, which was the second time I’d done so in just over a month. Both times it was an easy and seamless experience.

For my return journey – having left my car in Switzerland for another round of meetings in a couple of weeks – I flew from Geneva toGatwick. This necessitated train journeys in both Switzerland and the UK. The Swiss train was not too busy and totally hassle free. My experience at Geneva airport was also very pleasant as it was totally devoid of queues! This was in line with my previous experiences with airports since the end of lockdown.

On this occasion I flew with Easyjet. I was very surprised to find myself bunched up with other passengers in multiple rows of three across, despite the plane having many empty rows. This was very different to when I flew with British Airways earlier in the summer.

My trip included Riems, Aix-les-Bains, Chambery, Albertville, Megeve, Meribel, Chamonix, Martigny and Geneva.

Throughout this and previous trips, I’ve noticed how well-entrenched mask wearing is on the continent.

Local business sentiment

While in the Alps I met with five local businesses owners, all of whom I know well. All five felt positive. The overall feeling was that though 2020 has no doubt had its challenges, it has also created a real opportunity for the region.

All the businesses I spoke to believe that the Alps offer exactly what many people are looking for right now: space, well-being, incredible views and an escape from the city. The flight to the countryside from the cities is very real, and the Alps are benefitting.

Observations on the property market

I met with owners of two large specialist estate agencies. Both told me they’d had the highest number of summer transactions in the history of their companies. One of the agencies had even sold a considerable number of properties solely by video viewings during lockdown. Demand is certainly strong.

I also met with an architect and an interior designer. Both were very busy and said they had picked up a good number of new commissions since the beginning of lockdown.

During my trip I went to a development site in Megeve and assisted at a site meeting in Meribel. This allowed me to talk to multiple local tradespeople, who confirmed how busy the building trades are in the Alps.

No one I spoke knew of a single development project or building site that had been stopped due to Covid-19. This was echoed by comments about the huge investment plans in the Espace Mont Blanc that are very much ongoing.

Observations on tourism

I met with a booking agent who specialises in super prime chalet rentals. In their experience, bookings are very much still coming in, though there is a move towards last minute reservations given challenges with travel restrictions. This is particularly true for the Russian and British markets.

There’s a strong sense that the coming winter season will be different than previous ones, but those businesses who are able to adapt quickly and put safe rental protocols in place are likely to enjoy a strong season.

What to expect from the Alps this winter

High end companies, properties and resorts very much appear to be increasing their staffing numbers for the winter rather than decreasing them. This means they will be able to continue to provide quality customer service and incredible experiences as safely as possible.

If you’re considering visiting the Alps, I can definitely recommend it. If you’re able to work around any quarantine restrictions that may be in place – or if you’re in a position to relocate for a period of time – you can be assured of a warm welcome and robust safety protocols.