Édition #5

Redesigning tourism governance models in the Alpine regions in transition: characteristics,challenges and exploration

Anne-Sophie FIORETTO Geographer, teacher-researcher and project leader at the HES-SO Valais-Wallis Institute of Tourism
The Alpine regions, rich in natural, heritage and cultural resources, have long been sporting and recreational destinations, as well as places to relax and unwind, often marking a real break with everyday life. These regions are now facing increasing challenges linked to the ecological transition, economic pressures and socio-cultural changes. In this changing context, we are betting that the evolution of local tourism governance models will play a crucial role in ensuring sustainable, balanced and resilient tourism development.

GOVERNANCE OF SKI RESORTS IN THE ALPS?

Nowadays, the notion of governance is applied in a multitude of fields and scales of action, on both an international and local scale. In the context of mountain tourism regions, their management is based on two different models. The “corporate model” is an integrated model, where management is entrusted to a private operator and where the notion of performance is very important. The second model, the “community model”, is characterised by the presence of different independent entities, whose actions are decentralised and, in theory, where none is in a position of domination.

An analysis of tourism regions and their governance model is of crucial importance for understanding their tourism development. Here, our work is based on an exploratory analysis of three regions with different characteristics, in three different Alpine countries (France, Switzerland and Italy):

» The resort of Avoriaz 1800, with its model that is integrated in principle, is located in the commune of Morzine-Avoriaz (France) and is part of the Portes du Soleil ski area. This resort stands out for its unique historical governance model and its many sustainable initiatives.
» Verbier is a resort based on the community model, in the municipality of Val de Bagnes (Switzerland), which enjoys a certain international renown. The resort aims to become a benchmark in terms of sustainability.
» Gitschberg Jochtal, a community model, is in the heart of the Dolomites (Italy). This region has a diversified or 4-season resort profile which is dynamic and booming.

A detailed analysis of these three regions calls into question the relevance of these two models alone. Indeed, while the integrated model is still relevant and allows the predominance of a key player, the driving force behind a “corporate” strategy within the region, the community model tends to offer “variants” according to the regional specificities and in order to achieve the objectives of tourism attractiveness and efficiency.

To illustrate our points, we have analysed these governance models by developing a methodology based on identifying regional characteristics (resources), which, depending on their integration into the governance model, would facilitate the transition or not (0 = non-integrated resource, to 3 = highly integrated resource). The key characteristics or “resources” associated with the players who make up the local governance of the regions are presented below:

1. “Communication and information” resource
The circulation of information and implementation of a centralised and comprehensive communication system are major challenges for the operation of a resort as a “system of tourism players”. Identifying tools and processes is therefore essential.

2. “Promotion and marketing” resource
Marketing strategies are changing: today it is no longer about “selling a product”, but of “providing a unique, high-quality customer experience”. Local specificities must therefore be linked with the creation
of experiences with high added value, otherwise the potential for differentiating the region from others will be greatly reduced.

3. “Capacity for innovation (R&D)” resource
Today’s tourism regions need to have a certain capacity to stimulate innovation in order to boost competitiveness, improve the quality of their tourism services and contribute to the preservation of their natural resources.

4. “Financing” resource
Local resources cannot be promoted without funding mechanisms. These must be put in place to support local and regional tourism initiatives. The sources and types of funding available for long-term development must be identified.

5. “Project management” resource
This essential resource aims to determine whether the local players are capable of effectively planning, organising and managing tourism development projects, and ultimately makes it possible to measure the level of ‘professionalisation’ of a governance model.

6. “Collective” resource
This involves determining whether the local players, communities and stakeholders are actively involved in the decision-making process. The ability to integrate “new” local players in an agile way is now a major challenge.

MOVING TOWARDS A MODEL THAT FACILITATES TRANSITION?

The existence of these two governance models raises questions about the performance of mountain tourism regions and their integration into the transition process. Rather than seeking to determine which model will prevail, it is a question of finding a balance between the existing models.
Finally, regardless of the current model, tourist destinations are encouraged to rethink their governance outside any predefined conceptual framework (without compartmentalisation). This involves creating links between all the players in the tourism ecosystem and with the outside environment. In short, the key resource comes from the ability to be agile and to integrate players according to their specific regional needs.

“Rather than trying to determine which model will prevail, it is a question of finding a balance between the existing models.”

COLLECTIVE INNOVATION AT THE HEART OF THE TRANSITION?

Through this new approach to regional governance, the region is no longer considered solely as a geographical space, but more as an essential system for developing and implementing collective and regionalised development strategies. It is defined as a place of complex relationships and exchanges between different social groups (Leloup et al, 2005; Pecqueur, 1996). The local private and public players, as well as permanent and temporary residents, are now included in the equation. This recognition of the diversity of the players is essential if we are to understand and grasp the potential of regions in terms of tourism development.

This link between all the players in a defined geographical area requires a form of steered coordination that facilitates collaboration and the exchange of ideas, skills and knowledge, with the aim of generating innovative solutions that are tailored to the region’s challenges. Collective innovation therefore appears to be a key factor, a source of success that will facilitate the transition. Moreover, this approach makes full use of the region’s resources, both tangible and intangible. It encourages a long-term vision and favours an inclusive and global approach.


Scientific references
Flagestad, A., and Hope, C. A. (2001). Strategic success in winter sports destinations: a sustainable value creation perspective. Tourism Management, 22, p. 445-461.
Leloup, F., Moyart, L., & Pecqueur, B. (2005). La gouvernance territoriale comme nouveau mode de coordination territoriale ? (Géographie, Économie, Société, Vol. 7, p. 321‑331). https://doi.org/10.3166/ges.7.321-331
Pecqueur, B. (1996). Dynamiques territoriales et mutations économiques (L’Harmattan).

Anne-Sophie FIORETTO
Anne-Sophie FIORETTO
Regional diagnosis, strategic planning and project management in mountain resorts are the key elements of her professional career. From Alpine and Tyrolean resorts to resorts in Quebec, she has supplemented her university research (Masters & Doctorate) with a wide range of professional experience in the fields of communication, events, governance, regional planning and tourism. This comprehensive, cross-disciplinary approach in different types of resorts has given her a wealth of technical know-how and strong listening and advisory skills, so that she can guarantee the quality of projects carried out for local authorities. After 12 years in the private sector, she joined the “mandate” team at the Institute of Tourism (ITO) in July 2018 to develop, promote and improve the applied research, consultancy and support activities offered by the HES-SO Valais, as well as to participate in large-scale regional and interregional projects.