ANR-FNS - Appel à projets générique 2020 - FNS

Mountain huts as observatories of tourism transition. The repositioning of less-developed mountain areas and their related professions in the French-Swiss Alps – HutObsTour

Submission summary

Mountain huts as observatories of the tourism transition

The repositioning of less-developed mountain areas and their related professions in the French-Swiss Alps

The project is consistent with a context of strong adaptive injunction of mountain tourism destinations in the face of the cumulative effects of climate and societal changes. Though winter sports resorts also have to adjust to a diversification imperative, we have chosen the blind spot of the "off-resort" as our field of research. What is at stake is a transition trajectory based on a territorial rebalancing between "less-developed mountain areas" and "developed mountain areas", which appears particularly strategic on the scale of the Swiss and French Alps. Faced with a major knowledge deficit on the governance and visitor flows of "less-developed" mountain areas, mountain huts and the related professions (hut keepers, mountain guides, mountain leaders) are privileged markers, both in terms of infrastructure (huts) and culture (professions). Mountain huts play a nodal role in the tourist flows of less-developed mountain areas, while the creative capacity of the professional activities of accommodation and guiding that they generate is stimulated by the effects of uncertainty and crisis.
The objectives of the project are based on research needs identified by two previous programs: "Les refuges comme observatoires de la transition récréative en montagne" (seed funding UNIL-ICMR) in Switzerland and "Refuges sentinelles" (Pacte-LABEX ITEM-CDP Trajectories IDEX) in France.

These objectives question the practices and dynamics observable at the level of mountain huts and the related professions as resources for tourism transition, based on 3 workpackages: 1) the implementation of an observation system appropriate to the spatiotemporal dispersion of tourist flows in less-developed mountain areas; 2) the transformation of the professional cultures of mountain jobs; 3) the structuring role of mountain huts in the governance of less-developed mountain areas and in the diversification of tourism. The proposed approach will be deployed in a transversal way on sites located both in France and in Switzerland. The methodological orientations retained will give a pivotal role to the partnerships developed in a collaborative logic with operators and players on the ground. Already engaged beforehand in the elaboration of the objectives, questions and methods of the project, this approach will be conducted at all stages of the research. In order to cross-reference sources and types of data appropriate to the strong socio-geographical specificities of the subject and of the study areas, the methods implemented will be based on measurement and observation protocols combining a plurality of techniques: questionnaire surveys, interviews, experimental devices for collecting tourist flows data, focus groups, creative workshops. The selected sites (n=20) will be part of diversified and complementary territorial configurations, by reasoning in terms of "basins" presenting a functional network of mountain huts, and by considering their relations with nearby urbanised tourist centres.

The expected results are of a conceptual and methodological nature, and are at the interface between the geography of tourism and the interdisciplinary field of transition studies: by relying on the conceptualization of centrifugal geotourism forms still designated by default as "less-developed mountain areas", they will help demonstrate how the social and organizational niche innovations observed in mountain huts and the related professions makes up a resource that can be mobilized in the reorientation of the development model implemented in the Alps. On an operational level, they are intended to be used in the fields of visitor flows observation, initial and continuing training, tourism engineering, tourism policies and governance, in partnership with all field players involved in the project.

Project coordinator

Monsieur Philippe Bourdeau (Pacte - Laboratoire de sciences sociales)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


UNIL / FGSE / IGD Université de Lausanne
PACTE Pacte - Laboratoire de sciences sociales

Help of the ANR 289,477 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: March 2021 - 48 Months

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