Comment by Camille Rey-Gorrez, Director and Head of Communication and Partnerships at Mountain Riders.
Mountain Riders is a sustainable development education association founded in 2001 and represented in all the French mountain ranges. To lead regions towards social, economic and environmental change, the association mobilizes stakeholders and focuses on doing things together. It was behind the Flacon Vert label created in 2013.
What are the main challenges facing tourist destinations?
Mountain Riders's angle of attack is adapting to climate change, which requires in-depth work to rethink the economic, ecological and social model of mountain resorts. Behind this issue are questions such as transport organisation, diversification of tourism activities, water resource management and energy management.
What action can be taken to meet these challenges?
Governance is a central element. The keystone of the transition is the ability to work collectively around a tourism destination strategy. It is in this sense that Flocon Vert supports those involved. Doing things together
implies reviewing one's individual professional stance and moving in the same direction. The political question is underlying here; the way the area is governed is questioned. The strength lies in the collective movement and energy of each individual. Today, this energy is not sufficiently used in decision-making processes.
The strength lies in the collective movement and energy of each individual
How does Mountain Riders contribute to the transition of mountain resorts?
Flocon Vert is above all a change management initiative, which can be enhanced by the awarding of a label. It is a tool for setting a regional and tourist circular economy in motion. The specifications include 128 indicators grouped around four pillars that commit the areas to a continuous improvement process over three years, with progress thresholds determined based on the indicators. The initiative encourages us to collectively question the vision of tourism and the vision of the area for the future. Areas are invited to imagine and initiate the ecological and economic transition. Because today's models will no longer work tomorrow. It is necessary to explore how resorts can evolve differently. The levers that can be used by the resorts are varied. Chamrousse (Isère) has, for example, set up a ski collection service to recycle skis, Châtel (Haute-Savoie) has focussed on agriculture and pastoralism seen in relation to tourism, and the Chamonix Mont-Blanc Valley has developed transport as a key area.
Flocon Vert’s 4 pillars:
- Governance & Destination
- Local economy
- Social & cultural
- Natural resources & ecology
Mountain Riders also coordinates the "Mountain Days" campaign, which involves organizing waste collection days in the mountains.
In 2018, 39 tons were collected by 6,500 volunteers during 35 collections. In addition to collecting and being able to recycle waste, these days have a symbolic purpose. They reinforce educational work aiming to reduce waste at source. Mountain Riders wants to go further into zero waste in the mountains. It's a huge project in the making.
Today's models will no longer work tomorrow. It is necessary to explore how resorts can evolve differently.
Where are resorts at today?
As a caricature, it could be said that 20 years ago climate change did not exist and people were in denial. Today, awareness has been raised and it is now necessary to support change. Elected representatives in the mountains find themselves in a special position. They are at the head of tourism companies and at the centre of many interests that they must reconcile. But small steps are not enough. There is a real need to heighten awareness, transform models, support practical actions and make them last over time. Regulatory mechanisms and tools such as SCOTs (Regional integrated development plans), PLUs (local urban development plans), Climate Plans, etc. all help to formalise and structure actions in order to ensure their sustainability. They provide funding and human resources, which are essential features of the areas' commitment.
To what extent are tourist sites good places to raise awareness?
Tourist destinations are great places to send messages because people are available and they are experiencing different things, including connecting back up with nature. Whatever they do, it can fuel or initiate a change in behaviour. The mountains are also places where climate change is perceived in concrete terms.
Source : ECLAIRA - Newsletter No. 14 / July 2019
Mountain Focus photos: Matt Perich, Moutain Riders, V. Jay (CIRIDD), Taquiman.
Newsletter edited by CIRIDD - with support from the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region