When it comes to climate change – and there’s no doubt any more that it has come to that – many ski resorts have historically had a tendency to keep a low profile, because they don’t want to draw attention to the fact that they generally have, today, less (natural) snow.
This is ironic, because actually mountain resorts have enormous potential to differentiate themselves by engaging positively on the environment. All the motivation you could possibly need to respect and be inspired by nature is right there, on the doorstep. I know it’s why I live here.
Protect Our Winters (or POW), a non-profit organisation fighting climate change on behalf of the snowsports community, recognises this and highlighted it powerfully by campaigning around the hashtag #ActOnClimate:
Powder days on KT22 are why we #actonclimate. #POWRidersAlliance athletes kicked off the sharing of photos of places that inspire them, now it's your turn. Post your photo, letting us know why you #actonclimate – we'll choose a few to re-share and we'll also send you a POW care package. Make sure to tag it @protectourwinters!
More specifically, acting on sustainable development in mountain tourism has great potential to build brand awareness and exposure, reputation, consumer engagement and loyalty.
I want to be part of that
So how to engage people in what the resort is doing to become more sustainable and activate them to become fans of the effort, without dwelling on the negative effects of climate change? So that, as POW executive director Chris Steinkamp put it, “consumers say to themselves, ‘that’s cool, I want to be part of that'”?
This is essentially the key challenge of marketing sustainability and the question I decided to pose to a number of different French ski resorts over the next several weeks. Several of them are doing great stuff to make sustainability sing and I’m hoping to help just a little bit by identifying, highlighting and sharing some creative solutions and ideas that work.
Environment is core in Les Gets
First up: Les Gets.
“For us, communicating on sustainability started out as a natural strategy, not a calculated one, but now it is: it is part of our brand. We are a family resort, a charming village, a part of the Portes du Soleil and we protect the environment – these are our four core characteristics now.” (Gaëlle Le Coz, Les Gets Tourist Office)
Thanks very much to Gaëlle and Chrystelle Felisaz at the Tourist Office there for taking the time to take me through everything that’s going on in Les Gets. There was plenty to talk about but three initiatives in particular stood out for me as cool:
Nature-friendly accommodation scale
The resort has launched an ‘Escale Nature’ for landlords and hoteliers, whereby their accommodation can be classified as 1, 2 or 3 edelweiss, depending on how many eco-efficiency criteria they comply with. Criteria include energy economy, waste management and a reduction in noise pollution.
What’s cool about this? It raises awareness among accommodation providers, engages them in the overall resort effort and gives them a way to differentiate their offering from the competition, as well as encouraging them to make eco-efficiency improvements. Neat. At the same time, it also raises awareness among visitors to the resort about the choices they can make.
The resort just needs to make sure the system is robust enough, in terms of criteria and compliance, so that the edelweiss rating is credible and meaningful. It could also make it more prominent on its central reservation site, so you could easily search for 3-edelweiss accommodation, for example. It’s early days yet, but looks promising.
20% off a day pass for eco-citizens
Second, a special offer this year is delivering the clear message that it pays to be more environmentally friendly.
This coming winter, drivers of an electric vehicle can get 20% of a day ski lift pass, as well as benefiting from reserved parking spaces and two electric car charging points in the resort. Simple, and highlights the resorts new electric car charging facilities.
Better still, don’t use a car at all, electric or not.
Les Gets has a free shuttle bus circulating during the day to outlying areas and the lifts to encourage people to leave their cars at home.
That’s not unusual, but often these buses only run until the early evening. If you want to go out at night and are staying centrally, you still have to get your car out, or get an expensive taxi.
This resort’s answer? In the evening, it subsidises a pick-up on demand service that will take you where you want to go in the Les Gets area for just 2 euros per adult.
So three quite different initiatives with one thing in common: they’re a win-win – for the resort and its customers. Oh, and there’s a third win, for the environment.