Ski Country Andorra Aims For New 2008 Tourists

By: Roger Munns

Andorra's businessmen and women are normally counting their takings at the end of the country's ski season, but after the worst year for tourism for twenty years some are instead counting their blessings that they are in business still at all for the forthcoming 2008 skiing season.

While some might consider this year - when the first meaningful snow fell in mid March instead of mid November - a rare event, others are considering a future where diversification could be the key to their survival and continued profitability.

The Andorra government has worries too that recent investment in the infrastructure might not pay off. Millions of Euros have been spent on upgrading the roads and other facilities, while private money has seen the building of new quality hotels close to the ski slopes.

That investment was made on the basis of twenty years of continued growth for Andorra, to the extent that in recent years over ten million tourists have visited Andorra a year, a remarkable figure given a resident population of just seventy thousand.

But the investment was made for the ski season of early December to late April, when the vast majority of the tourists arrived, and little had been planned for the rest of the year. The season was so bad for 2006/7 that the ski slopes were closed three weeks earlier than normal.

Andorra is now looking to market her best assets, the Pyrenees mountains, to spring, summer and autumn tourists to try and make up the winter shortfall. And if this season was a one-off rather than a regular event it will come as a boost to the tourist trade rather than an alternative one.

The activities that would be naturally attractive to tourists and easily catered for are hill and mountain walking, hiking and pony trekking.

Andorra is fortunate compared to many regions where ski holidays are an important part of the economy, as it is also a tax haven, second only to Monaco in Europe for popularity, and equal in tax benefits.

As well as attracting new residents with high net wealth who contribute to Andorra's economy while in residence with their spending power, Andorra has a good banking system that provides good employment prospects.

To obtain residency in Andorra, applications need to be submitted in Catalan. A notarised copy of the applicants passport, birth certificate and a certificate of good conduct from the home country are submitted at the same time. Residency normally takes between three and six months to be approved.

Once residency is granted, residents are supposed to spend six months a year in Andorra, but this isn't policed.

One of the drawbacks for those looking to become a resident in a tax haven when considering Andorra has been that the country has no airport of its own, and is unlikely to have ine future given that it is located in the Pyrenees. The nearest airports are Barcelona and Toulouse.

Recent improvements in the road from Barcelona to Andorra though have cut the travelling time by some thirty minutes to two and a half hours.

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