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1This issue of the Journal of Alpine Research | Revue de Géographie Alpine is the second opus dedicated to mountain-region development initiatives based on the valorization of territorial resources and including a tourism dimension.

2When we launched the first opus, “Creating territorial resources to renew the tourism product in the Alps and the Pyrenees” | “Fabriquer des ressources territoriales pour renouveler l’offre touristique dans les Alpes et les Pyrénées”, we said that the aim of this two-part issue was to “examine new approaches to tourism projects in mountain areas by considering tourism in terms of its potential for promoting sustainable development. This requires analyzing the processes actors in the field of tourism use to identify, “invent”, and valorize new resources in order to turn them into levers for territorial development”. Consequently, these two issues follow a “double tradition and dynamic of academic reflection on the workings of development in mountain areas. On the one hand, they investigate territorial and heritage resources (François et al., 2006; Corneloup, Bourdeau, Mao, 2006; Gumuchian, Pecqueur 2007; Landel, Senil, 2009) as assets for regions whose competitiveness is not related to competition in the generic goods and services market, and which have, in contrast, built up a heritage capital that can be mobilized, most notably, in the field of tourism (Debarbieux, Del Biaggio, Petite, 2008). On the other hand, they also look at the linked issue of the workings of innovation in marginal areas (Mehertu, Pigozzi, Somers, 2000; Gerbaux, Giraut, 2000; Antheaume, Giraut, 2002; Valette, 2003; Camagni, Maillat, 2006; Boujrouf et al., 2009; Giraut, 2009), including spatial margins, socio-political margins, and even identity-related margins. Overall, it is this dynamic of resource invention in tourism development that gives rise to the continual reinvention of the mountains (Debarbieux, Rudaz, 2010) and regional development applied to individual territories (Gloersen et al., 2010 & 2012).”

3The present opus follows this optic, presenting studies carried out as part of two international research products focusing on the global south and more precisely the mountain areas of Morocco and Niger1, and on the territorial and local dynamics at work in the mountain areas of Europe2.

4Pierre-Antoine Landel et al.’s introductory article, based on the experiences of Morocco and Niger, reflects on the nature of territorial projects and the valorization of heritage in marginal areas of the global South. Their reflections introduce the relations between the construction of a destination and a territory’s characteristics. It underlines the fact that the constitution of a “panier de biens” (basket of goods) that benefits from a recognized and valued characteristic of a territory depends on conditions that are difficult to bring together and that rely on a very delicate balance. For example, the transition from affirming a high-quality local specialty (Taliouine saffron in southern Morocco) to a distinctive and good quality tourism destination capable of attracting large numbers of tourists is a complex operation (see also the article by Said Boujrouf in this issue). This depends on both internal factors, such as the ability of a group of actors to produce a panier de biens containing more than just the flagship product, and external factors, such as the ability or interest of tourism operators, whether in mass-tourism or niche tourism, to include or maintain in their circuits a new and remote tourism destination, or a tourism product offer that matches the supposed expectations of their clientele. It is always possible to reason in terms of the limits, and even risks, associated with the construction of territorial qualities. This is what the articles in this opus do, either implicitly or explicitly. Reading these articles helps clarify the nature of the qualities that may be attributed to products or services as a function of their origin and location, and which can be used to form an outstanding panier de biens.

  • 3 Y Jeanneret (2010) analyzed what is implicit in the doubly tripartite approach to sustainable devel (...)

5These qualities can be attached to different components of sustainable development. In the discourse on sustainability it has become standard practice3 to talk about a trilogy of imperatives (equitable, viable, and livable), which correspond to the intersections between the three pillars of sustainable development: social, economic, and environmental. All three are required to achieve sustainability. But this raises the questions of the place of “territorial” in this schema and whether it represents an advantage or a limit, a constraint, or even a risk for the use of a characteristic in a territorial development project.

6Hence, qualities linked to the social and the economic, that is, those linked to the equitable nature of a product or service, are not exclusively territorial, whether in the form of fair trade favoring the remuneration of producers, production by women favoring the economic emancipation of women, or cooperative modes of production favoring the group ahead of the individual. On the other hand, at the junction between the social and the environmental (the livable domain), community-based products linked to an origin or local skill, and usually to a milieu, have both territorial and community-related characters. Finally, the intersection between the economic and the environmental (the viable domain) is mostly a-territorial, especially in the case of organic production. Hence, only certain qualities arising from the social, via culture and heritage, and from the environmental, via specific milieus and their associated skills, are linked to a territorial reality, whereas the qualities linked to modes of production are more ubiquitous.

7If there are no real contradictions between them, and if they can be cumulated, the qualities of a panier de biens that are highlighted and mostly highly prized will define a preferred orientation, either towards a quality-label approach, in order to valorize the mode of production, or towards a territory-label approach, in order to valorize the qualities of the milieu and the origin. The second orientation guarantees both the product’s or service’s qualities and specificity, thereby enabling it, in theory, to escape from competition, but it makes the panier de biens more vulnerable due to its connection with the image of the community that created the panier and its territory (Marcotte et al., 2012).

8Contradictions may arise when the panier de biens is put together, for example, if the home area of certain products is different to the areas visited by the potential clientele for these products. To once again cite the case of Morocco presented in this issue by Said Boujrouf, such spatial offsets exist between the areas of origin of distinctive high-quality local products, such as argan oil and saffron, and the valleys of the High Atlas Mountains, which are the areas most popular with international tourists looking for exotic and authentic experiences. Thus, it is very tempting to advertise these original local products as regional products that are, what is more, “Berber” and possibly made by women. Marie Oiry (2012) observed the blurring of identity-related and geographical characteristics in the field. They reflect another limit of the territory-linked panier de biens, in addition to a possible marginal location with respect to popular tourist areas, that is, its possibly specialist character, which means it can form an element in a circuit, but not as a complete destination. As Said Boujrouf shows, the specific and specialized area concept in which it is constructed as a territory-related project may be out of step with the logic of complementary places that make up informal and formal tourism circuits. This can occur even if tourism in the marginal areas of the global South, and especially in mountain areas, mostly consists of alternative forms of tourism made up of very different tourism practices and offers, such as “nature” tourism, mountain tourism, rural tourism, hiking tourism, solidarity tourism, and culture tourism. It generally promotes the uniqueness of the proposed experience, which combines specific characteristics and resources, both territorial and heritage, with generic social and environmental qualities linked to a certain authenticity.

9What the experiences described here show is that, in terms of sustainable development, there are two challenges facing these tourist destinations, which are being constructed within a larger context of territorial development. First, they have to avoid mono-activity, as this would be both a source of vulnerability when it comes to international tourism, and potentially predatory and destabilizing for local societies and milieus. Second, they must integrate their tourism offer into a high-quality panier de biens capable of creating a value chain that runs through the local rural economy by favoring quality craft and agriculture sectors. However, quality, as this is what everything hinges round, must be certified, recognized, and valorized by suitable packaging and presentation. Professionalism, that is, knowledge of expectations and markets, tends to go hand-in-hand with tourism specialization (Och, 2012). Hence, constructing a territorial project that valorizes a group of resources around a panier de biens, rather than the tourism business itself, is a formidable challenge. Although the experience of Morocco’s saffron country exemplifies such an approach and its limits, it still has things to learn from the experiences of Aïr and Agadez, presented here by Dambo et al. Today, these areas are suffering greatly from their geopolitical vulnerability; nevertheless, they have managed to develop a professional system to valorize a group of territorial resources.

10Finally, the case of the Valais (Michelet, Giraut) highlights another type of risk, that of a territorial brand, where the reputation and value of a group of goods and services are inextricably linked to the territory’s image as the depository and creator of a combination of outstanding skills and lifestyles. If this brand is suddenly perceived as less virtuous, its entire symbolic apparatus is weakened.

11The notion of risk must be taken into account in both the global North and the global South when introducing mechanisms to construct and valorize territorial resources and distinctive destinations as a way of boosting the local or regional development of mountain areas.

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Antheaume B., Giraut F., 2002.– « Les marges au cœur de l’innovation territoriale ? Regards croisés sur les confins administratifs (Afrique du Sud, France, Maroc, Niger, Togo ) », Historiens et géographes HS, 39-58.

Boujrouf S. et alii (eds.), 2009.– Les territoires à l’épreuve des normes : référents et innovations, Contributions croisées sud-africaines, françaises et marocaines, Marrakech et Grenoble, Université Cadi Ayyad et Revue Montagnes Méditerranéennes.

Camagni R., Maillat D. (eds.), 2006.– Milieux innovateurs : théorie et politiques, Paris, Economica-Anthropos.

Corneloup J, Bourdeau P., Mao P., 2006.– « La culture, vecteur de développement des territoires touristiques et sportifs », Montagnes Méditerranéennes 22, p. 7-22.

Debarbieux B., Del Biaggio C., Petite M., 2008.– « Spatialités et territorialités du tourisme : Dialectique du flux et de l’ancrage dans les Alpes », Civilisations 57 (1/2), p. 75-89.

Debarbieux B., Rudaz G., 2010.– Les faiseurs de montagne. Imaginaires politiques et territorialités : XVIIIe-XXIe siècles, Paris, CNRS Ed.

François H., Hirczak M., Senil N., 2006.– « Territoire et patrimoine : la co-construction d’une dynamique et de ses ressources », Revue d’Économie Régionale & Urbaine, 5, p. 683-700.

Gerbaux F., Giraut F. (eds.), 2000.– L’innovation territoriale. Références, formes et enjeux, Revue de Géographie Alpine, 1.

Giraut F., 2009.– « Innovation et territoires : les effets contradictoires de la marginalité », Revue de Géographie Alpine | Journal of Alpine Research 97-1.

Gloersen E., 2012.– « Renewing the Theory and Practice of European Applied Territorial Research on Mountains, Islands and Sparsely Populated Areas », Regional Studies, 46(4), p. 443-457.

Gloersen E. et alii, 2012.– GEOSPECS - Geographic Specificities and Development Potentials in Europe, Draft final scientific report.

Gloersen E., Dubois A. (eds.), 2010.– Handbook of territorial diversity, Luxemburg, ESPON.

Gumuchian H., Pecqueur B. (eds.), 2007.– La ressource territoriale, Paris, Anthropos.

Jeanneret Y., 2010.– « L’optique du sustainable: territoires médiatisés et savoirs visibles », Questions de communication (17), p. 59-80.

Landel P.A., Senil N., 2009.– Patrimoine et territoire, les nouvelles ressources du développement, Revue Développement durable et territoires.

Marcotte P., Bourdeau Ph., Leroux E. 2012.– « Branding et labels en tourisme : réticences et défis », in Management & Avenir 7, pp. 205-222.

Mehretu A., Pigozzi B.W., Somers L.M., 2000.– « Concepts in Social and Spatial Marginality », Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography 82(2), p. 89–101.

Och O., 2012.– Vers une construction de paniers de biens en montagnes marocaines, le cas du Haut Atlas, Mémoire de Master, Département de géographie, Université de Genève.

Oiry-Varacca M. 2012.– « La mobilisation des identités amazighes dans des projets de développement touristique. Dynamiques du branchement et de l’ancrage dans les montagnes marocaines », Via@, 2.

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Valette E., 2003.– Pour une approche géographique de l’innovation sociale. L’exemple des territoires ruraux périurbains de la garrigue nord-montpelliéraine, Thèse de Doctorat, Université Denis Diderot, Paris VII.

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1  International Mist AA program entitled “The challenge of Marginality and collective Identities in Sustainable Tourism development strategies: case studies in Atlas and Aïr”, financed by the Swiss national Science Foundation and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (DDC), and involving the geography department at the University of Geneva, together with its partners the University of Cadi Ayyad’s LERMA research group in Marrakesh (Morocco) and Abdou Moumouni University in Niamey (Niger).

2   GEOSPECS European research program into the regional development of geographically specific territories, financed by the ERDF as part of ESPON. The University of Geneva’s geography department was leading house.

3 Y Jeanneret (2010) analyzed what is implicit in the doubly tripartite approach to sustainable development (economic/social/environmental, and equitable, viable, and livable). He noted that it was Wikipedia which, starting from the three initial pillars, popularized the tripartite classification of the virtuous combinations of sustainable development, with all three being necessary for something to be considered sustainable.

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Frédéric Giraut, « Territorial qualities at risk: global South evidences », Journal of Alpine Research | Revue de géographie alpine [En ligne], 102-1 | 2014, mis en ligne le 13 juin 2014, consulté le 19 juin 2021. URL : ; DOI :

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Frédéric Giraut

University of Geneva,

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