After investing millions of Euros in their ski facilities, popular ski country Andorra has been left reeling from her worst season for twenty years, with initial official suggestions of a ten per cent drop in tourists this year, and private ones of closer to 40 per cent.
The season was so bad that it was decided to close the slopes at the end of the long Easter weekend, in previous years the slopes have been open until the end of April, and this effectively cut the 2006/7 season by three weeks.
There was hope in the middle of March when the snow finally arrived that it could increase substantially the number of visitors for the last six weeks, but despite Easter week seeing normal levels of hotel occupancy, it failed to trasllate into bookings for the few weeks after.
For a small country with a population of 70,000 reliant on the ski industry, the economy has been hit not only direct in the travel trade, but others sectors feeling the pinch include Andorra's shops and departments stores which offer some of the cheapest quality shopping in Europe, and also the restaurants, petrol stations and real estate.
A nervous wait is in store for Andorra for the 2007 to 2008 season, with the hope that snow levels, which were poor throughout the European ski resorts this year, will return to normal.
Andorra has invested heavily in recent years to bring the standard of ski facilities and other infrastructure up to the quality of competitor European ski resorts, with a resulting ten million tourists a year prrior to this year.
Included in the investment has been a new ski park in the village of Arinsal designed with children in mind, with the aim of encouraging their ski ability before being let loose on the slopes, and new hotels in Andorra's prime ski resort of Soldeu and improvements in the road system.
Fortunately for Andorra, as well as skiing, the country enjoys a tax haven status, with subsequent high employment in banking and an active real estate industry for those looking to gain residency.
Andorra The Tax Haven
Surprisingly perhaps for a tax haven, mortgages for a property are as available as many European countries, with rates around the same level. Up to eighty per cent of a property's value is often agreed by the banks in Andorra.
Buying a property in Andorra is often seen as a route to residency, which entitles people to live in Andorra and benefit from her tax haven status.
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 hours fifteen minutes.
'Given the tax advantages Andorra has', note a local travel guide, 'A two and a quarter hour trip to the nearest international airport could be viewed as a small price to pay for those who will be saving substantial amounts of money in tax. Especially when you consider that their properties could be rising in value quite significantly in the years to come.'
For more details about Andorra, including the village of La Massana visit Andorra travel guide YourAndorra.com