Didier Thévenet, Maire de La Clusaz : "La Clusaz est une station de 1800 habitants permanents seulement. Nous comptons 800 résidences principales et 4000 résidences secondaires appartenant essentiellement à des Français. Et nous voulons bien évidemment lutter contre le problème des lits froids en faisant en sorte que cet habitat fonctionne une grande partie de l’année." - Photo DR

Mountain plan: Didier Thévenet, Mayor of La Clusaz, “We must invent a new economic model …”


Futuroscopy – First point, what do you think of this mountain plan that the State has just put in place? Is it sufficient?
Didier Thévenet. Mayor of La Clusaz:
This is a first step and a real desire on the part of the government and the regions to help the mountains. This will help the territories in their environmental and economic transition. It should also help tourist destinations to get out of the financial rut.

Futuroscopy – The resort of La Clusaz reacted rather well to the pandemic during this winter?
Didier Thévenet:
Yes quite. We have up to 77% occupancy during school holidays when the ski lifts were not working, and shops and restaurants were closed.
In fact, our strategy of diversifying the offer of leisure activities has worked well: fun activities, a giant labyrinth, toboggan runs, hiking routes, etc. This has allowed families to have fun while spending the night. time together.
In the end, during the season, the average attendance was 47%! The restaurateurs have also adapted to the situation with the click & collect, thus offering a service to our guests.
We will therefore continue to diversify our activity. Especially since our resort was created around the village which lives year round and can adapt to activities other than skiing. But, this winter without ski lifts also showed that our economy could not play its role of redistribution in the absence of skiing.
In fact this winter, we lost 70% of the activity and between 500 and 1000 jobs. We must therefore invent a new economic model that sustains life and human activity in the territory, and continue the flow in the valleys. We have therefore launched the development of a master plan on the subject, the results of which we expect by the end of the year.

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“Our main problem: global warming and drought”

Futuroscopy – From an environmental perspective, what about your station? Do you encounter any particular problems?
Didier Thévenet:
Yes, obviously like all the resorts in the mountain ranges. We know that our main problem is global warming and drought.
In addition, in La Clusaz our soil does not retain water! Warming is already leading to very rainy seasons followed by periods of drought that risk causing shortages of drinking water in summer and in winter. The first imperative is therefore to avoid this shortage by building a water reservoir.
The purpose is to reserve 50,000 m3 in emergency for drinking water and pastoralism, and also to store 98,000 m3 for artificial snow. In fact, experts show us that by improving the snow cover in the ski area, we will be able to maintain 90% of our ski slopes in 2050. We should thus go from 27% of snow-covered surface to 45%.
We are far from the snow cover of neighboring countries. But we know that we must convince the environmental associations of the validity of the project. Which is not always easy, but it is essential because we work well in the circular economy.
Futuroscopy – But, what about the demographic situation of La Clusaz which seems to be another problem?
Didier Thévenet:
La Clusaz is a resort with only 1,800 permanent inhabitants. We have 800 main residences and 4,000 secondary residences mainly owned by French people. And of course we want to tackle the problem of cold beds by making this habitat work most of the year.
However, we have a major problem with land: the square meter has become very expensive. It can reach 14,000 euros. This is a deterrent for our Savoyard population who no longer have the means to become owners in the resort.
Seasonal workers in particular are severely penalized by this situation, which is common to many other stations. We must at all costs stop departures and keep a population, shops and public services useful to all: schools, post offices, banks … For seasonal workers, devices exist, we are going to use them to be able to accommodate them in the entire resort. the year.

Real Estate: “We have blocked some projects”

Futuroscopy – What are your other projects to fight against this situation?
Didier Thévenet:
We have blocked certain promotion operations to limit the inexorable development of under-occupied second homes which are helping to tighten the real estate market. To go further, we now want to increase our land control in the territory, and modify the PLU to guarantee the livability of the village.
I think that we must at all costs play on our living environment and its quality and try to attract a hybrid population who would live and work in the resort, at least a few days a week.
Teleworking is a huge asset for areas close to large cities. It provides an environment conducive to the performance of professional tasks without assuming the difficulties. As we are close to Annecy, we could attract an active population, young, family but anxious to live in peace part of the week. This would make La Clusaz a four-season resort, alive, lively and welcoming all year round. This would above all make it an authentic resort which has kept its soul.
Futuroscopy – 10 million euros for biodiversity, is that enough? And, what do you think of these “learning holidays”?
Didier Thévenet:
It’s a good start. But the public authorities need to help the mountain adapt to the transitions. However, should we put it under cover? I ask the question … Regarding “learning holidays”, we know that the renewal of generations is an important lever.
Futuroscopy – Skiing and sliding in all of this, will you try to develop new facilities? By the way, how far are you on this plan and on tourist beds?
Didier Thévenet:
We froze the Club Med project, as well as the plan to extend the ski area in the Combe de la Creuse. We believe that in the future, development must be harnessed so that it continues to fuel the local economy and not serve to enrich decision-making centers and shareholders.
However in La Clusaz, we have 15,000 cold beds compared to less than 10,000 hot beds. It helped us during the pandemic, but unfortunately it is not enough to develop the 4 season activity. We must therefore continue to fight against cold beds. And we need the help of authorities and investors to achieve this.

Interview by Josette Sicsic / Futuroscopie
Journalist, consultant, lecturer, Josette Sicsic has been observing changes in the world for more than 25 years in order to analyze their consequences for the tourism sector.

After developing the journal Touriscopie for more than 20 years, she is still on the cutting edge of news where she decodes the present to predict the future. On the site www.tourmag.com, Futuroscopie section, it publishes prospective and analytical articles several times a week.
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