A Very Merry Christmas from the French Alps

Les Arcs Bourg Saint MauriceChristmas Eve is a time for feasting and festivities in France, and Les Arcs in the Savoie Alps put on its usual spectacular show for December 24th. But behind the scenes town officials and business owners were voicing concerns over the future of winter sports tourism, with bookings outside school holiday dates well down on previous years. Not just fireworks but accommodation, lift pass and food prices have skyrocketed in recent seasons, and the average European snowsports enthusiast is beginning to think twice about the annual holiday on the slopes that he once took for granted.

Les Arcs Bourg Saint MauriceThe not-so-average punters who can afford the five star Arc 1950 resort will be less affected by a worldwide recession, but the plummeting value of the rouble will mean that some Russian visitors (photo) may be feeling the chill - although perhaps not this couple, going by the elegant attire and footwear of the dog!

And across the world back home in Thailand...

With the very evident tightening of belts in Europe and the US, no prospect of an end to the recession in sight, what chance the optimistic pronouncements of the new Thai government on the imminent return of the tourists proving accurate? More hope than certainty perhaps, given the even greater threats to the Thai economy posed by falling exports to the West. With a nation still deeply divided, the Democrats have their work cut out over the next few months. Bets are being taken on the chances of their administration not surviving through to Christmas 2009. The 'redshirt' DAAD supporters are down but not out, and planning a major rally for Sunday 28th. A significant economic downturn could jeopardise the fragile peace, and play right into the hands of the more militant members of the Thaksin camp.

So a volatile and unpredictable situation, although there is at least hope for expats and Brits in particular, reeling from the effects of the strengthening baht!
Thai Crisis suggests that Thailand may have to reverse its currency stability policy and stop supporting the baht by selling dollars. Small comfort though, in a country where a key part of the appeal was its incredibly low cost of living, an advantage that is steadily being eroded away in recent years. The expat forums are awash with talk of moving to Laos, Vietnam... not just because of the cheaper prices, but also because of the less protectionist attitude of their respective governments to foreign investment, actively encouraging expat entrepreneurs to set up in business. Hardly the case in Thailand.

Still, I've been in France for barely a week, and the
mai pen rai, never mind, live for today attitude of the Thais hasn't faded away completely just yet. So it's back for a Christmas Day's skiing on the snowy slopes of Les Arcs, and the incredible scenery of a part of the world that has so much going for it. Tomorrow's another day. So let it snow, and have a great festive season!

Les Arcs Bourg Saint Maurice
Les Arcs Bourg Saint MauriceIce sculpture at Les Arcs

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1 comment:

Mike said...

Pete what great photographs along with your usual excellent commentary. As they say crisis what crisis.

What I would give to have a word in the ear of certain British politicians, but then again they are probably away skiing in the Alps.

Perhaps a well directed avalanche is called for.

At this rate I will soon owe BOT money each month. Current exchange almost puts GBP on parity with the Euro at exchanges here.

Happy New Year!