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Swiss legal changes to benefit self-catered chalet owners


Much publicised elsewhere, the Swiss have, it seems, finally decided that foreign-managed tourism is not worth the bother. In what we at Just-Verbier.Com view as self-serving short-sightedness (or ‘cutting off one’s nose to spite oneself’?), the Federal authorities have introduced a new law in the country that requires that from this winter, everyone in the hotel and catering industry is paid a minimum of £33,800 a year. A staggering sum for what might be a bottle washer’s wage, by anyone’s standards.

This is, of course, a noble goal by which the Swiss hope to protect their population’s wage levels and, if you happen to be working in the very highest ranking of hotels or restaurants, this will only be of benefit to you. But for the British tour operators who have traditionally employed seasonal staff (both British and local Swiss), the new salary levels are punitive at best, and crippling at worst.

A typical 19-year-old Brit working in a resort for the winter would traditionally have expected to receive a wage of around £140-£180 per week, but given that their accommodation, season lift pass, insurance and equipment hire are all provided for free, this wage is effectively ‘beer money’ for them, paying for snacks (there always seems to be some chalet food going spare for them), evening drinks and a pack of corn flakes back at the staff apartment.

What effect will this have?

In Verbier, the range of accommodation is broad, from small self-catered apartments to the very luxurious catered chalets and five-star hotels. And, poetically, it is probably these categories that will remain largely unaffected. They either do not have large staff complements, or already charge their clients enough to be able to afford a salary raise for those employees previously beneath the wage threshold – or are able to charge their clients a bit more to cover the shortfall.

The death of low cost catered packages?
The crunch will be most acutely felt by the mid-range mainstream operators who offer catered chalets – which require a larger staff complement to be in the resort – and who charge a competitive rate for higher volume, lower priced holidays. Two lower-cost tour operators are already thought to be pulling out of the village – Ski Total and Skiworld – and their staff overhead will have had a lot to do with this.

It’s been estimated that the number of affordable catered chalets and chalet-hotels across all the Swiss resorts will reduce by as much as 40% immediately as a direct result of the new law, with a lot more operators pulling out over subsequent seasons when chalet rental contracts expire.

It’s good news for the self-catered chalet owner

For skiers and boarders hoping to stay in Verbier, the reduced number of affordable catered chalet holidays means the self-catered chalet market will undoubtedly benefit, along with the higher-end luxury options. Many owners of self-catered chalets already pay a local business to undertake their cleaning and laundry, and do not employ any staff themselves – British or otherwise. The costs to you, the holiday-maker, is unlikely to be affected over much, although a small increase may arise over time simply as a result of basic supply and demand principles, with fewer accommodation options available in general.

Got any more news about companies pulling out of the catered market? Let us know.


June 25, 2014


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