by Roger Munns
Low lying European ski countries last year who saw a decline in ski holiday visitors, including Andorra, have been investing in her facilities to try and tempt the skiiers she lost back for the 2008 season.
In the past Andorra has grown in stature from a destination offering cheap ski holidays to one that can compete with the best that Europe has to offer, with a growing number of ski holidays being taken in the country over the last decade to the point where it was attracting some ten million tourists a year.
But unexpectedly the rise in visitors to Andorra came to a screeching halt for the 2006/7 ski season, and the ski slopes closed two weeks earlier than anticipated due to a lack of snow that saw many other resorts in Europe, especially in countries with low lying slopes like Austria, badly affected by the lack of natural snow.The Andorra economy is unusually reliant on the ski holidays industry, the other main activity being the financial and banking industry due to her tax haven status, and the Andorra weather refused to play her part last year. Some estimates suggest takings for supermarkets, petrol stations, department stores and supermarkets were down some 40 per cent compared to 2006 in the main ski holiday areas.
The good news for the Andorra ski holiday industry as it hopes for an improved 2008 holidays season is that the snow – notably absent last year – started to fall in November, and long range weather forecasts suggest that January through to April could see enough snow to give Andorra skiiers good snow depth, and little if any need for snow cannons to make up any shortfall.
But the tourist authorities are determined not to be caught out again, and continue with the progress made in the last twenty years that has seen Andorra rise impressively from a cheap ski holiday destination to one that caters for the middle and upmarket price range with UK ski holiday specialist companies like Crystal Ski offering a full range of holidays in Andorra.
Private money as well as finance from the banks in Andorra have helped to upgrade Soldeu, a main Andorra ski holiday resort, to a high class status with new hotels and upgrades for existing ones.
In total it is estimated that nearly 200 million Euros has been invested in Andorra’s on-mountain ski facilities, and the figure rises significantly when off-mountain spending is taken into account, such as the new hotels in Andorra, notably in the top ski areas of Soldeu and Arinsal.
The ski areas of Andorra have been praised by many in the industry for having the capability of producing enough man-made snow to cover over 40 per cent of the ski domain, but investment has continued to further this already high amount by having for the 2008 ski holiday season over a thousand snow cannons in place – although it is hoped they don’t have to be used much.
‘The aim of the Andorra tourist authorities’, comment local travel guide http://www.yourandorra.com ‘is to ensure that when skiiers choose Andorra the resorts will do everything they can to make their holiday a memorable one for all the right reasons – and to see them again in future years as they decide Andorra is a good skiing holiday destination.’
The upgrading of facilities and road infrastructure has also increased interest from those looking for a European tax haven and considering taking residency in Andorra.
Andorra is one of the most sought after tax havens in Europe with no income tax for her residents, and is second in popularity only to Monaco, but enjoys the same tax benefits.
One of the big differences between the two is the cost of a property. Real estate in Monaco is among the highest in the world with a studio often costing over a million Euros, while Andorra property is considerably less with good two bedroom two bathroom apartments for sale from around 300,000 Euros.
To show the skiing fraternity that Andorra is capable of meeting their expectations for the 2008 holiday season, and importantly to meet the expectations of ski companies like Thomson ski, Andorra will have 450 ski instructors over seven different resorts, and to maintain her family friendly atmosphere four creches.