Verbier opens 3* hotel as chalets close

17th September 2014, by Abi Butcher

A 3* hotel opens in Verbier as Inghams and Skiworld withdraw from the chalet market

A 3* hotel opens in Verbier as Inghams and Skiworld withdraw from the chalet market

A newly refurbished three-star hotel is opening this season in the Swiss ski resort of Verbier, in its move to offer more affordable lodging.

The Montpelier Hotel, a former Inghams property near the sports centre in Verbier has undergone a total transformation for the 2014/15 season. The 50-room hotel will have an on-site ski shop and swimming pool — and offer a refreshing change to the the four and five-star hotels that have opened in British skiers’ favourite resort in recent years..

Another, brand new, three-star hotel will be built for the 2015-16 ski season in Verbier, to further increase the affordable accommodation available in the resort. This is good news in the current erosion of the chalet market in Switzerland. A change in employment law for staff in the catering industry means chalet staff must now be paid the Swiss minimum wage.

Previously, staff employed in chalets by UK tour operators were paid a UK wage (including UK taxes and National Insurance contributions) under UK contracts. A change in the regulations last year means staff in the catering industry (which includes chalet staff) must be paid the Swiss minimum wage of CHF3,407 per month. This equates to around £2,233 a month, £26,796 per year, about the average UK salary, but a substantial increase on chalet staff earnings previously — typically less than £100 a week but often including accommodation, food, travel and ski pass.

“Switzerland are looking down the barrel of virtual collapse of the chalet sector,” said Andy Perrin, CEO of Inghams, which has closed 22 out of 23 chalet properties in Switzerland owned by Inghams and its sister companies Esprit Ski and Ski Total.

Mr Perrin added: “It’s a crying shame — only the top luxury operators can afford the Swiss minimum wage and it will affect business in ski resorts — two nights in a Swiss hotel is the same price as a week in a chalet.”

Crystal stopped offering chalets in Switzerland in 2013, and Skiworld has drastically reduced its offering, too.

But despite this, Switzerland continues to march on in popularity. Although the chalet options are reducing, both Inghams and Crystal last week reported an important rise in the number of skiers heading to Switzerland — from 5.5 to 6.5 per cent from Crystal.

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