What is the future of the mountain hotel industry?
We all know that climate change can be especially felt in the mountains. Temperatures are rising (+1.7ºC per decade since 1900), snow is becoming rarer (the duration of snow cover has decreased by one month since 1900) and glaciers are melting.
According to the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability, “tourism contributes around 5% of greenhouse gas emissions” and is expected to reach 13% by 2035. As temperatures rise, snow cover decreases drastically.
* The Evolution of Experience
High demand and new expectations
The expectations of guests who come to stay in the mountains in winter are changing and diversifying. In parallel with the tourism developed around winter sports, some tourists do not come to ski, but to take advantage of the wide open spaces and the exceptional natural setting after over two years of pandemic-related isolation or confinement.
This new clientele is looking for a unique experience in an extraordinary setting. In order to satisfy this demand and compensate for the gradual reduction in snow cover, top-performing hotels are developing services oriented around well-being, whether it be spa, gastronomy, or sports other than skiing.
Hotels are adapting
Faced with these changes, hoteliers are constantly adapting to the establishment of new tourist experiences. Indeed the types of tourism present in the countryside and in the city, are available in the mountains: wine tourism, cycle tourism, and well-being tourism.
In a context where snow is becoming scarce, high-mountain areas are mostly dominated by high-end hotels, even if we note the opening of more financially accessible places, offering quality services, like "new generation" youth hostels oriented towards new technologies and lifestyle, such as Ho36 or The People Hostel.
Groups outside the hotel sector are also launching their projects, inspired by the new expectations of guests. For example, the Folie Douce is a hotel in Chamonix that offers a rather festive experience, and Paris Society, an expert in gastronomy, opened Refuge de Solaise in Val d'Isère.
When it comes to interior design and the guest experience, we are also witnessing the birth of a new era for hotel design. They are becoming more and more lifestyle, like the ILY House of Happiness, RockyPop, or Whitepod Hotels.
Previously more rustic, classic, and simple, the mountain hotel industry is now trying to break with tradition to make their spaces more "instagrammable" via both decoration and activities that promote conviviality and sharing of the guest experience. The goal is to truly stand out, move upmarket, and affirm the growing professionalism of accommodation players.
Resorts are also reinventing themselves
If climate change and hotels are changing, so are resorts, which are constantly reinventing themselves. Winter sports are multiplying and so are the possibilities,
by offering ever more activities (e.g. a zip line in Val Thorens), events (e.g. Salsa Festival in summer in Avoriaz), festive places (Folie Douce), sports complexes (new complex in Val Thorens), or a life-size escape game.
Some areas that were only open in winter are starting to open in summer as well and are considering remaining open year-round while reducing their impact on the environment.
* Energy usage is a major issue in the mountains
With all these changes, mountain resorts face major ecological and energy challenges.
Indeed, according to the Mountain Carbon Association, tourism in France represents 4.8 million tonnes of waste per year, of which 22% correspond to ski holidays (much due to heating).
The mountain tourism sector must therefore adopt innovative and eco-responsible processes. Respect for biodiversity has also become essential to consider for any mountain resort.
The evolution of mountain resorts
Tourist offices aim to reduce energy use and environmental impact, doing things like encouraging the use of public transport. There are countless initiatives, whether focused on mobility such as those of the ten Labellemontagne stations, Les Menuires with Co'lidays, Bourg Saint Maurice station with the funicular 5 minutes from Les Arcs, or energy-oriented, such as the development of a centralized dual-energy wood/electricity boiler system in Avoriaz or the biomass boiler room in La Plagne.
Municipalities promote the construction of low-consumption buildings and high environmental quality buildings such as Altapura in Val Thorens, for example.
They also promote pedestrian travel by setting up electric shuttles as in Val d'Isère, Les Gets or Avoriaz...
Others are trying to obtain certification, such as the Green Flocon Label, which guarantees the sustainable commitment of mountain tourist destinations.
More eco-responsible hotels
Hotels seek to become greener by adopting greener processes that involve the guest– asking guests whether they want their sheets or towels changed, eliminating plastic bottles to make way for water fountains, and more.
More and more brands are calling on associations to avoid waste by recovering restaurant food or recovering used soap (Unisoap association).
Digitizing digital restaurant menus and room directories is also an ecological process that avoids wasting paper.
Hotel brands are committed to respecting sustainable development or social responsibility charters (Accor with Planète 21, IHG with Green Engage, Hilton with Travel with Purpose).
Groupe Barrière created the Planet Barrière program made up of 5 Pillars: “Governance and Dialogue” to make environmental impact everyone at the company's responsibility and to mobilize all employees; “Customer Relations” to empower the guest and involve them in the process; “Employer Responsibility”, to improve the quality of life at work; "Environment" to limit the environmental impact; and finally "local development", as the last pillar of their policy, to promote territorial development.
Hotels need and want to resolve all issues related to recruitment and turnover. This is why they are committed to creating plans for employee loyalty, quality of life at work, benefits, development prospects, and salaries... Ecology is already a central subject for some hotels such as whitepod Monthey or Wom Tignes (opening 2023).
Growth opportunities for the mountain hotel industry
Faced with growing demand from customers looking for nature and the great outdoors, the constant evolution and change in the mountain hotel sector can sometimes seem dizzying.
But these changes ultimately are a great opportunity to stand out and get a head start on the market while perfecting your branding.
After all, what could be better than placing the environment and the guest experience at the heart of your strategy and value proposition in order to retain guests and convert new targets?
Digital Marketing Manager for Alps @influencesociety