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1This issue features articles focusing on different aspects of the transition which is currently under way in mountain resorts. In general terms, this transition process appeared when the combined effects of climate change and social change began to gather pace, impacting the trajectories of tourism areas both in mountain areas and elsewhere. After an introduction exploring the application of the concept of transition to tourism from a territorial perspective, we will present an overview of the articles in this issue, all focusing on a clearly-defined geographical space: the French-speaking Alps.

2The development of mass tourism was chiefly inspired by concepts designed for industry; the expression “tourism industry” reflects these origins. Tourist resorts are direct descendants of this approach. Moreover, the issue of their adaptation was raised some time ago (Clivaz et al., 2015; Lapointe et al., 2015). However, tourism is first and foremost a service activity, irrespective of the large scale of the infrastructure required to produce it. Thus the issue of adaptation is by definition part of the tourism dynamic. As shown by Gadrey et al. (1992), the connection between production and consumption of services means that supply is constantly being adjusted to demand in a manner which does not correlate with the rationale of standardisation, mass production and economies of scale which exists in industrial economies. Over the years, this series of small incremental developments in the tourism offer has formed the basis of structural change.

3These findings align with Butler’s observations (1980) in his lifecycle which addresses the issue of the regeneration or revival of destinations. But how does the transition dynamic differ from the normal evolution of the tourism sector? Does it represent a clean break prompted by changes whose speed and number exceed the usual pace of tourism development? The concept of transition (Salvatore et al., 2018; Corneloup, 2017) appears to be a cross-cutting approach to different forms of adaptation. In this respect, transition allows us to explore from a global perspective tourism evolution resulting from specific adaptive responses. It is therefore necessary to broaden our perception of what is possible and to consider that the outcome of tourism transition lies outside the concepts which governed its development.

4The development of the mountain tourism sector is relatively recent and achieved its current scale and form in the mid-twentieth century. The Fordist model which emerged at this time (Cuvelier, 1999) has since undergone a number of developments, changes and external pressures ranging from the oil crisis and Covid-19 to the rise of international competition. The challenge to the model of the polarisation of mass tourism and, ultimately, the dilution of tourism activity within the area, are key issues raised by research into tourism transition (Salvatore et al., 2018), and are particularly relevant to mountain resorts (François, 2007).

5Is tourism better equipped than other sectors to meet the challenges of transition ? In reality, the issues addressed by the tourism industry to date have related primarily to the growth in tourism demand to which supply has been able to adapt (Langenbach et al., 2017). Some of the issues which are currently emerging impact the productive context more directly : in the case of summer tourism, coastal erosion threatens tourist activities and weakens infrastructures, and winter tourism is directly affected by reduced snowfall on ski slopes. This increased vulnerability challenges the ability of tourism to contribute to the economic growth of regions. In France, this is of particular importance given their role in the spatial planning policies produced by public authorities.

6As a modern solution to rebooting local development against a backdrop of deindustrialisation and the relocation of industries to other areas, tourism has often played a significant role in local economies, whatever its respective and successive forms and however diffuse or polarised. Looking beyond clearly identified tourist destinations, all regions are affected by developments in tourism. In this respect, we return to the issues raised by Philippe Bourdeau (2009), who analysed the role of tourism in the transition from “100 % skiing” to the exploration of alternative avenues for local development.

7In their research on the development trajectories of resorts, Darbellay et al. (2011) have conceptualised the options in the form of three ideal/typical trajectories: successive stages, corresponding to the ability of resorts to adapt continuously to demand and to weather external crises (global economic crisis, war etc.); the abyss, represented by the disappearance of the tourism function without a replacement economic activity; and lastly, metamorphosis in which tourist activity loses its dominant position and is gradually replaced by other activities, notably related to the residential economy (Guex, Crevoisier, 2017).

8The clash between tourism and permanent housing is not new. It shows a paradox inherent in tourism which allows local populations to generate revenue from and add new value to tourism areas which may then exclude these very populations. A. Barrioz addresses this issue here through the prism of gentrification as revealed by the real estate industry, and by exploring tourism’s contribution to a specific socio-spatial organisation and its relationship with the touristic appeal of the location. Coming from the opposite angle, A. Friedli suggests turning the issue on its head and addressing it in terms of amenity migration and the establishment of new populations which clash with tourism development. Touristic appeal helps to attract new populations, but the appropriation of tourism real estate for permanent residency limits capacity for tourists and thus de facto, the consumption of goods and services designed for them. These two angles offer an instructive perspective which is both central to tourism and symbolic. Enhancing value via tourism is driven by increasing the attractiveness of the location and this can potentially create a situation where initial local development objectives are exceeded. It may also exclude tourism development stakeholders despite the aim to allow people to “live and work in the local area”. This confirms that the transition dynamic leaves us poised on a knife-edge and raises questions around the attractiveness of areas when divorced from the tourism context which has contributed to their reputation.

9In addition to identifying tipping points, this reminds us of the major importance of attractiveness as a factor in evaluating the need for tourism transition, and the forms it can take. For C. Desmoulins, one way of approaching this notion of attractiveness, which is by definition subjective, is to look at the reputation of these destinations. In order to achieve this, she develops a reputational measurement scale to provide an objective assessment of this notion. The challenge is not only quantitative but also qualitative. This issue of reputation has an immediate application in an iconic tourism location such as Chamonix Mont-Blanc. Like all mountain destinations, Chamonix and the Mont Blanc are in the front line of climate change which affects not only winter sports but also practices such as mountaineering, and in this specific instance it is transforming iconic high-altitude mountain landscapes characterised by a high number of glaciers. Focusing on this case study, C. Clivaz and A. Savioz show that local tourism stakeholders do not take ownership of climate change in any direct and obvious way, despite the highly visible melting of glaciers which is a feature of the landscape “on a daily basis”.

10The articles in this issue explore certain facets of transition: (multi)residentiality and gentrification which unpack the relationship between “old” and “new” residents, and between new residents and visitors; upholding the reputation of a destination as a guarantor of attractiveness, between the perceived imaginary and the reality of the local infrastructure ; and the challenges posed by climate change which it is still difficult for local tourism stakeholders to address head-on, even though they are operating in landscapes which have experienced significant climate-driven transformations. In addition to these themes, which the articles in this issue cannot cover exhaustively, there are other areas which can shed light on the issue of transition in mountain resorts, which must be addressed in future papers. These include: digital media which is having a profound impact on how tourism products are advertised and sold; a diversification of practices and products – a genuine imperative which entails political, commercial, managerial and territorial strategies; the future of leisure real estate, a real driving force behind the expansion of resorts in the past, which must now address the phenomenon of obsolescence and the proliferation of informal offers and platforms putting tourists and property owners in touch with each other; the creation of bespoke tourist experiences rejecting the standardised offer characteristic of the functional model in favour of a personalised offer and a memorable experience which decouples the tourist from the everyday; and the management of development and tourism planning against a backdrop of high fragmentation of stakeholders at a local level which raises the issue of the territorial scale on which tourism should be organised.

11Finally, we believe it is important to approach tourism transition by bearing in mind the high degree of uncertainty around this transition, in terms of the continuation of tourist activity on the one hand, or a withdrawal from tourism on the other. The thinking presented here is therefore dependent on changes in the context in which tourism is implemented, and the issue of mobility in particular. Rising mobility costs associated, for example, with the integration of external environmental costs, higher transport costs, and an increase in natural risks around access roads which therefore require new safety measures will have a direct impact on the accessibility of mountain areas, and stiffer competition from more accessible areas will by definition raise issues around competitiveness. Lastly, since the trajectory for mountain resorts is always governed by skiing and winter sports, particular attention must be given to their fortunes and future prospects in the light of the global changes taking place.

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Bourdeau, Ph. (2009), « De l’après-ski à l’après-tourisme, une figure de transition pour les Alpes ? », Revue de Géographie Alpine | Journal of Alpine Research, 97-3.

Butler, R. W. (1980), “The concept of a tourist area cycle of evolution : implications for management of resources”, The Canadian Geographer/Le Géographe canadien, 24(1), pp. 5-12.

Clivaz, Ch., Gonseth, C., Matasci, C. (2015), Tourisme d’hiver : le défi climatique, Lausanne Presses Polytechniques et Universitaires Romandes.

Corneloup, J. (2017), « Transition récréative et écologie corporelle », Nature et récréation, 5.

Cuvelier, P. (1999), Anciennes et nouvelles formes de tourisme : Une approche socio- économique, Editions L’Harmattan, Paris.

Darbellay, F., Clivaz, Ch., Nahrath, S. et Stock, M. (2011), « Approche interdisciplinaire du développement des stations touristiques », Mondes du Tourisme, vol. 4-2011.

François, H. (2007), De la station ressource pour le territoire au territoire ressource pour la station. Le cas des stations de moyenne montagne périurbaines de Grenoble, Thèse d’aménagement du territoire, Université de Grenoble Alpes.

Gadrey, J. (1992), L’économie des services, Editions FeniXX.

Guex, D., Crevoisier, O. (2017), « La montagne et l’innovation : du lieu de production au cadre de vie », La montagne, territoire d'innovation, Jan 2017, Grenoble, France.

Langenbach, M., Clivaz, Ch., Tuppen, J. (2017), « Diversification de l’offre touristique des stations de montagne : Approche croisée des processus de diversification par les sports outdoor en Suisse et en France », Juristourisme, n° 198, pp. 37-41.

Lapointe, D., Sarrasin, B., Guillemard, A. (2015), « Changements climatiques et mise en tourisme du fleuve St-Laurent au Québec », VertigO - la revue électronique en sciences de l'environnement, Hors-série 23 | novembre 2015.

Salvatore, R., Chiodo, E., Fantini, A. (2018), “Tourism transition in peripheral rural areas : Theories, issues and strategies”, Annals of Tourism Research, V. 68, pp. 41-51.

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Marc Langenbach, Christophe Clivaz et Hugues Francois, « Re-inventing tourism areas: what form of transition in Alpine resorts? », Via [En ligne], 18 | 2020, mis en ligne le 27 décembre 2020, consulté le 21 juin 2021. URL : ; DOI :

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