Swiss Chalet Closures

New employment rules from the Swiss government are causing a mass exodus of UK chalet operators from the country and threaten the Switzerland’s status as a leading destination for skiers and snowboarders alike.

Chalet

Chalet staff working for UK operators were previously employed under a UK contract, but the new law means that they must be employed under a Swiss contract and as such must be paid a minimum wage of 3,407CHF (£2238) per month. With the way Switzerland calculates salaries, this equates to around £34,000 per year, whereas the UK average is £26,500.

Inghams, one of the biggest UK operators has closed all but one of it’s Swiss chalets while sister companies Esprit Ski and Ski Total have pulled out of the country altogether. Crystal Ski have also left the country with SkiWorld having just one chalet each in Zermatt and Nendaz.

Apparently the legislation was pushed through at a national level without consultation or an understanding of the ski market. It’s effectively a lose-lose situation, both for the chalet operators and the resorts, who stand to lose a great deal of the current tourist from the UK.

The legislation fails to take into account the fact that chalet staff are provided with both food and accommodation. It’s estimated that income from UK operators across Swiss ski resorts is around £50 million, across 19 major sectors from ski schools to resort shops.

This new legislation, coupled with a particularly poor exchange rate has caused severe problems to the industry with many of the current operators pulling out of Switzerland and potentially investing in property in other ski regions.

Companies that trade as Swiss companies however (such as VIP Ski and Bramble Ski) have been unaffected by the changes.

The Austrian government have also pursued an amendment to the Austrian Anti Wage Dumping Act which ensures that non-resident workers are paid the same wage as Austrian employees. With a minimum wage of around 1,000 euros a month, this could see a similar exodus of UK companies from Austrian resorts.

Currently UK operators are able to pay staff to lower levels since their employment package includes accommodation, food, flights, insurance, ski hire and lift passes as well as compensation for working during holidays and evening shifts.

It is estimated that with staff costs increasing by around 46%, a ski holiday to Austria could rise by as much as £140 with a reduced number of chalet holidays on offer.