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Thu 1 Mar 2007 12:00 AM

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No snow, no problem, claim the region’s tour operators

Two of the region’s largest tour operators – Emirates Holidays and Etihad Holidays – have played down the impact of poor skiing conditions at European resorts.

Two of the region’s largest tour operators – Emirates Holidays and Etihad Holidays – have played down the impact of poor skiing conditions at European resorts.

They claim that despite the lack of snow at ski resorts across Austria, France and Switzerland in January, they were not adversely impacted.

“All the European resorts in the Etihad Holidays ski brochure have been chosen for their good snow records in previous years and all of Etihad’s Austrian resorts have excellent snow making systems which are used to supplement the natural snow fall if and when necessary,” explained Etihad Holidays general manager, Nick Wood, himself a experienced skier.

“Though a few lifts were not operating at the very beginning of the season, all Etihad resorts have provided plenty of skiing for all grades of skier since the season started and we have had no cancellations.”

Wood said his team kept in regular contact with resorts featured to check snow conditions.

“Developing technology such as live web cam broadcasts from ski resorts enables the most up-to-date information to be provided,” he added.

Marco Heinrich, product development manager for Europe & America, Emirates Holidays, conceded that the winter ski season had witnessed “a slow start” due to the lack of snow, but noted that bookings from non-skiers had been robust.

“We have two types of customers; those who want to spend Christmas and New Year in the ski resorts and the others are strong skiers who book the resorts at high altitudes that are snow-safe,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Emirates Holidays saw summer 2006 bookings to Austria increase 20% on 2005, and this year the operator will add Seefeld in the Tirol region to its brochure.

“It’s a viable alternative to Zell am See and has something for everyone – mountains, every sport under the sun, a wide range of accommodation and it’s not far from Munich airport,” he said.

The Austrian National Tourist Office has claimed that despite snowfall problems, the current winter season (November to April) is on track to witness a 5% hike in arrivals and a 3.9% increase in overnight stays.

However, an unprecedented number of major ski events were cancelled this season, including the famous World Cup downhill race in Kitzbühel in the Austrian Alps.

This could be written off as a bad year had concerning reports by commissioned by Europe’s Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development not revealed that the Alps have not been this warm since the eighth century. The Alps, climatologists contend, are warming twice as fast as the world average and in Austria, experts at the annual Regional Conference on the Alps announced recently that most glaciers would disappear from the Alps by 2050.

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