Comment by Guillaume Cromer, President of Acteurs du Tourisme Durable (ATD).
This association promotes competitive tourism that creates economic, social and environmental values.
How is the tourism sector evolving?
G.C : From a general point of view, tourism is a growing economic sector. Its 6% growth in 2018 worldwide confirms this. The tourism sector is perpetually changing. It has been greatly influenced by the emergence of new players such as online travel agencies, which are disrupting the distribution channels of the tourism offering and making those involved in traditional tourism dependent on their services. At the same time, some fairly high stakes are emerging in terms of sustainable tourism.
What are the issues at stake in tourism?
G.C : The economic stakes related to tourism are very high. With €21.2 billion consumed in tourism in France and abroad, or 8% of the GDP, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes is the 2nd largest tourist region in France. However, the emergence of new controversies such as the impact of air transport on climate change reveals a growing awareness among people involved in tourism, both for professionals and travellers. The challenges of sustainable development as applied to tourism are becoming more acute. The need to develop sustainable tourism is becoming more and more pressing.
What are the levers for engaging in sustainable tourism?
G.C : Growing public awareness will not be sufficient to change the current dominant model. The cognitive bias is too great, and it is no longer possible to wait for things to change. Regulations must be invoked to engage sustainable tourism at European and national level. As one of the world's leading tourist destinations, France must assert its leadership and show that it is committed to sustainable tourism, including social and environmental criteria. As an example, triple capital accounting, a world ranking of sustainable destinations, or an indicator based on the happiness of inhabitants are all tools that could be used to promote sustainable tourism.
The norm today is to travel to very distant locations. Given the climate emergency, can we really continue like this? The question of collapsing biodiversity must also be asked in the tourism sector: what would tourism look like with the collapse of living things? The issue of mobility is becoming crucial. Alternatives to flying must be proposed, massive investments must be made in train travel and work must be done on the last mile issue. A complete paradigm shift seems inevitable if people want to keep the sense of freedom associated with tourism.
Comment by Véronique Peyrache-Gadeau, Senior Lecturer in territorial economics at the University of Savoie Mont Blanc, researcher at the EDYTEM laboratory, the CNRS joint research unit “Environnements, Dynamiques et Territoires de la Montagne (Mountain environments, dynamics and areas)”.
How has mountain tourism changed in recent years?
V.P-G : In the mountains, tourism as it has been developed since the 1960s and 1970s, particularly with the Snow plan, on seasonal winter sports and infrastructure able to accommodate a mass public (resorts dedicated to winter sports) is coming up against limits such as the lack of "natural" snow, and therefore shorter seasons, lack of physical space, so no more major high-altitude construction programmes and lack of customers because of other new, more attractive or more competitive destinations.
What are the prospects for this kind of tourism?
V.P-G : Two perspectives could shape the new trends:
>> the change of a tourist model centred on the exploitation of snow (and water resources in the case of cultivated snow) which would aim to firmly commit to redirecting financial resources towards other investments and other "post-snow" tourist activities. There are many ideas but few are truly sustainable and, above all, we do not today have an economic model as "efficient" as the Snow model has been.
>> another economic framework could emerge in which the current tourism model would no longer be dominant and would have to coexist with other activities. This would mean a more open field of possibilities (particularly towards the residential economy, towards transition initiatives seeking to get closer to a natural environment) but this scenario will probably not be supported by those involved in the current tourism model or those who use it.
What are the challenges of mountain tourism?
V.P-G : The challenges of mountain tourism are fundamentally to anticipate a future structural crisis:
>> either by carrying out an internal conversion (changing the model, redirecting investments towards other activities known as green tourism, integrated tourism or ecotourism) with a perspective that respects all environmental issues and one that takes into account climate change, which may be, in all seasons, an opportunity to develop a real welcome for populations in search of well-being, and to become committed, for example to "climate change" by considering reasonable means of reorganizing and re-using existing infrastructure and limiting the ecological footprint as much as possible.
>> or by providing external resources from other economic sectors that can assert their interests in developing or maintaining an activity in the mountains instead of touristic activities: for example, agro-forestry and pastoral activities in response to issues of access to environmental resources (water, soil, grass and forest); or health, well-being, human services, culture, environmental education activities for vulnerable people (young and old) in the effects of climate change or groups wishing to access a biocompatible environment, looking for alternative lifestyles in the urban environment, or places for experimenting with ecological transition initiatives.
Source : ECLAIRA - Newsletter No. 14 / July 2019
Insights photos: Taquiman, V. Jay (CIRIDD), Pixabay
Newsletter edited by CIRIDD - with support from the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region