Struggling mountain communities could make better use of the hundreds of thousands of chalets and other holiday homes on their territory to ensure future growth and renewal, a Swiss think tank says.
According to Avenir Suisse, Swiss mountain regions, which cover the southern half of the country, struggle due to low economic growth, internal migration, the strong Swiss franc and the Lex Weber initiative to limit the construction of second homes, which came into force in 2016.
However, a report by the think tank published on Tuesday,external link says reforms and new sources of income could help the future development of mountain areas.
It believes the 350,000-400,000 second homes in Switzerland offer the “greatest potential” for growth and suggests advertising holiday homes on “innovative rental models” like the Airbnb platform to provide the tourism industry with a sustainable source of accommodation.
The authors say second home owners’ local knowledge and commitment to the regions should also be maximised and mountain communities and cantons must work together as partners.
The report found that between 2000 and 2015 there were 43 valley fusions in Switzerland. “Valleys are the dominant landscape of mountain regions. It is in the valleys where the economic potential lies,” said the think tank.
The report also recommends mountain regions develop online businesses as a way of distributing regional products, as well as regional parks with eco-friendly tourism.
“Border customs of agricultural products need to be dismantled to the advantage of the mountain areas. A stronger regional identity, product bundling and the merger of regional marketing organisations are also potential policies,” it went on.
Thomas Egger, director of the Swiss Group of Mountain Regions organisation, told the 24Heures newspaper that the report gave a good overview of the problems but he questioned its liberal economic stance which seemed to omit key issues like public investment in infrastructure.
Egger agreed that second homes offered potential to regenerate regions. He said associations and interest groups representing second home owners had been created in various regions to look at this issue. Airbnb was one option, but there were other online platforms and solutions and communes and partners were trying all options, he concluded.