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. Many 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: Spa, gastronomy, and sports other than skiing and snowboarding.
Hotels are adapting
Faced with these changes, hoteliers are constantly adapting to the establishment of new tourist experiences. Many types of tourism present in the countryside and in the city are also available in the mountains, such as wine tourism, cycling tourism, and well-being tourism.
In a context where snow is becoming more scarce, high-mountain areas are still mostly dominated by high-end hotels. However, there has been a trend of more financially accessible openings such as "new generation" youth hostels like Ho36 or The People Hostel that are oriented towards new technologies and lifestyles.
Groups outside the hotel sector are also launching their projects, inspired by the new guest expectations. For example, the Folie Douce is a hotel in Chamonix that offers a more festive experience, and Paris Society, an expert in gastronomy, opened Refuge de Solaise in Val d'Isère.
In terms of interior design, the trend is moving towards a more "lifestyle" approach, such as with the ILY House of Happiness, RockyPop, or Whitepod Hotels. In contrast with a more rustic, classic, and simple style, the mountain hotel industry is trying to break with tradition to make their spaces more "instagrammable" via both design and activities that promote conviviality and sharing of the guest experience.
Resorts are also reinventing themselves
If both the climate and hotels are changing, so are resorts, which are constantly reinventing themselves. Winter sports are multiplying and so are the activities, such as salsa festivals in Avoriaz, zip lines in Val Thorens, new sports complexes, escape games, etc.
Some areas that were previously only open in winter are starting to open in summer as well and are considering remaining open year-round while attempting to reduce their impact on the environment.
Energy use is a major issue
Along with all these changes, mountain resorts face major ecological and energy challenges. 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 , mostly 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. There are countless initiatives: Some are focused on mobility and the promotion of poublic transport, while others are 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.
Some municipalities also promote the construction of low-consumption buildings and high environmental quality buildings such as Altapura in Val Thorens, while others encourage electric shuttles such as in Val d'Isère, Les Gets and Avoriaz. Even more 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 are adopting greener processes that involve the guest: Asking guests whether they want their sheets or towels changed daily, eliminating plastic bottles in exchange for water fountains, and more.
More brands are calling on associations to recover restaurant food waste or used soap. Digitizing digital restaurant menus and room directories is also an ecological process that avoids wasting paper.
Hotel brands are are also beginning to sign sustainable development or social responsibility charters (Accor with Planète 21, IHG with Green Engage, Hilton with Travel with Purpose).
For example, Groupe Barrière created the Planet Barrière program made up of 5 Pillars:
1. “Governance and Dialogue” to make environmental impact everyone at the company's responsibility and to mobilize all employees
2. “Customer Relations” to empower the guest and involve them in the process; “
3. "Employer Responsibility”, to improve the quality of life at work
4. "Environment" to limit the environmental impact
5. "Local Development" to promote territorial development.
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 value proposition in order to retain guests and convert new targets?