The Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (Fesi) has released a statement in which 10 leading ski companies, five sports retail groups and 12 sporting goods industry federations raised concerns about the consequences for the industry of the planned closure of many European winter sports resorts in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The statement recalls several country leaders in Europe have called for their residents to avoid winter sports and for a EU-wide closure of winter sports facilities during the coming winter holidays through last-minute announcements based on what the signatories consider to be “unfounded arguments.” They complain that these announcements have been made “without preliminary consultation with our members, without preparation, and without any coordination between countries.” While pin-pointing certain alpine regions, other regions inside or outside Europe are not mentioned at all, so that “the current decisions are potentially only displacing the issue or generating an unhealthy competition among countries,” while providing no concrete solutions.

As a result, and despite the investments that the industry has made this year to save the season, the entire sector will likely be confronted with a net loss of around 30 percent of the €3 billion in turnover that it generates in two weeks annually, should the resorts be closed during the holiday season. The consequences will be especially harsh for the small and medium-sized players in the sector, which account for 65 percent of the turnover, threatening their survival.

While understanding the concerns related to the current health crisis, the signatories of the statement urge decision-makers to consider that the winter sports industry generates an annual turnover of around €10 billion in Europe, employing around 1.5 million people during an average season. Furthermore, manufacturers have already delivered the related hardgoods and softgoods for the winter season, which means that the invoices for the 2020/21 seasonal goods are now due. The situation is even more drastic for companies that specialize in renting winter sports equipment, since the inventories that are not used during the holidays will be lost. These effects add to the negative repercussions on related businesses across entire tourist regions and destinations, where the local fabric of small family-owned shops, service providers and sub-contractors will be dramatically damaged.

Since March 2020, the operators in the winter sports sector have massively invested in clear and comprehensive sanitary guidelines, the statement claims. Therefore, it appears to be “relatively disproportionate to impose a blanket ban to an entire sector” in the presence of proper and concerted sanitary measures, they argue, reminding that most EU treaties and member states’ legislations require “proportionality, necessity and objectivity” in case of necessary restrictions in order to prevent discriminatory treatment. They call for proportionate and effective measures to deal with winter travel and skiing.

The signatories of the statement consider that the current threshold of financial support of €800,000 per company in the compensation for fixed costs as ”a massive disadvantage even for medium-sized enterprises that should be re-evaluated.” Other sectors have received clear commitments from EU and national authorities about financial safety packages in various forms, and the winter sports sector should be one of them, they claim. The sector also calls for a concerted approach in view of the re-openings of resorts in January, where the industry operators should participate in the dialogue.

The sector advocates more predictability in the future, since the actors in the winter sports sector need to be informed in advance on when and which resorts might be forced to close down. The statement recalls that 60 million European citizens are regular skiers, according to Eurostat, and that 43 percent of them practice the sport in the Alps and 19 percent elsewhere in Europe. It points out that, like any other type of sport, snow sports improve mental and physical wellbeing. This type of sport also “strengthens the immune system through exercise, fresh air, and a healthy dose of light therapy during the dark days of winter.”

The statement, which was released on Dec. 9, is available on Fesi’s website.

The signatories of the statement include the following companies: Atomic, Elan, Faction, Fischer, Head, Inretail, Intersport, K2, Marker Dalbello Völkl, Groupe Rossignol, Salomon, Skimium, Ski Set, Sport 2000 and the Tecnica Group. The signatories among the federations include Asmas, the Swiss sporting goods retailers’ association, in spite of the fact that no ski ban is planned in Switzerland, as well as Fesi, the European Outdoor Group (EOG) and the more international World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI). The others represent sporting goods manufacturers or retailers in Spain, Italy, France and Germany.

Photo: Damiano Linguardi, Unsplash