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Climate Change Main Challenge for Future and Greatest Generator of New Opportunities for Mountain Tourism

Climate Change Main Challenge for Future and Greatest Generator of New Opportunities for Mountain Tourism - TRAVELINDEXAndorra la Vella, Andorra, March 21, 2024 / TRAVELINDEX / More than 400 participants of over 16 nationalities attended the first day of the 12th edition of the World Congress on Snow, Mountain and Wellness Tourism, which is being held at the Andorra la Vella Congress Centre under the title ‘Sustainability and Wellness, the keys to mountain tourism’.

More than thirty international speakers, with top-level professionals and numerous institutional representatives, will take part over two days in the round tables which will deal with present and future issues in the sector and define and specify the future axes of development of snow, mountain and wellness tourism. Over the course of these two days, the speakers will address issues such as: sustainability as the main axis for the development of the sector, tourism diversification, emerging products in response to the demands of the new tourist as well as the training and human resources needs in mountain tourism.

• More than 400 participants of over 16 nationalities attended the first day of the 12th edition of the World Congress on Snow, Mountain and Wellness Tourism.

• Mountain tourism can become the solution to the great challenges of the future for many mountain communities, but it must face its biggest challenge: climate change. To overcome it, the sector will have to broaden horizons and create new opportunities.

• The proven healing effect of the mountains and their contribution to mental wellbeing and general health explains the growth of mountain tourism in recent years.

Tourism as a solution to the great challenges of the future.

In the inaugural session, His Excellency Xavier Espot, Prime Minister of the Principality of Andorra, stressed that the country’s tourism sector has recovered pre-pandemic figures, “figures that provoke enthusiasm with more than 9 million tourists and 12 million overnight stays in 2023”. He highlighted, however, the importance of “seeking a balance that ensures environmental continuity and the well-being of the people, moving towards a model based on sustainability to find a balance between quantity and quality”.

“Tourism should not be seen as a problem, but as part of the solutions to the great challenges of the future, because a tourism that respects nature, culture and society also guarantees resources for the future,” added Espot.

In that same perspective, Natalia Bayona, Executive director of UN Tourism, declared that “mountain tourism can become the lifeline for many mountain communities as it offers a large number of opportunities for growth, but respect for nature and natural resources is essential”.

The Honorable Laura Mas, Mayor of Encamp, the host parish of this edition, reminded us that “we must be committed to tourism that gives value to all the particularities of our environment, always with sustainability in mind”.

Alice Morrison, writer and TV presenter, gave a talk entitled “Our marvelous mountains: opportunities and challenges”, in which she pointed out the future challenges that mountain tourism must face, highlighting climate change as the most important one. “To face it, new opportunities will have to be created that will force us to broaden horizons in order to expand the existing market”, she pointed out.

Growth will be sustainable, or it will not be.

The morning continued with the high-level panel, moderated by Natalia Bayona, with the participation of Mr. Jordi Torres Falcó, Minister of Tourism and Trade of Andorra, Rosana Morillo Rodríguez, Secretary of State for Tourism of Spain and Alessandra Priante, President of the National Tourism Agency (ENIT) of Italy. As an introduction, Natalia Bayona stressed that mountain tourism “is a driving force for development and progress, but the characteristics of each territory must be taken into account so as not to lose its essence”.

“Mountain tourism is a lever of our economy, and we must take advantage of mountain areas not only in winter, but also to deseasonalise tourism and be more sustainable in order to avoid overcrowding,” explained Jordi Torres. “This sector has a very important future, but only if we take care of and respect the environment”, he added.

For her part, Rosina Morillo said that mountain tourism “helps us to deseasonalise tourism in Spain and invest in unpopulated areas of the country to fix the population in these areas”, but added that “when we talk about sustainability, we must also take into account social sustainability, seeking a balance with the territories and their communities”.

Alessandra Priante described the current moment as the ideal time “to reflect and have a clear vision of tourism as a driving force for the economy”. She also pointed out that “the mountain is more than just sport: we cannot forget about gastronomy and wellbeing, an element on which the existing offer must be developed”.

All the speakers agreed on a final common message: the importance of a balance with the local communities and the environment, as growth must go hand in hand with the protection of the ecosystem.

Michel Julian, Senior Programme Officer at UN Tourism, and Enric Martínez, Director of Pas Grau International (Andorra), then presented the report “Understanding and quantifying mountain tourism”, with the aim of obtaining a more holistic view of what is happening in the sector. Michel Julian highlighted the need to “make progress in the capture of data that will help in decision-making, and in this sense, AI will be a key element”.

Health and wellness tourism, a rising trend.

“Our motto is back to nature”. This is how Csilla Mezösi, Secretary General of the European Spas Association, began her speech. “It is not a trend, but a normal development: there are many positive effects of being in contact with nature. Spas appear as places where physical and mental wellbeing can be offered. Mountains have healing effects, contributing to psychological well-being and general health,” she added.

The afternoon session began with a round table dedicated to health and wellness tourism, with the participation of David Astrié, director of ICONIC Andorra, Athina Babakou, Director of Strategic Planning for the Ministry of Tourism of Greece, Emma Haefeli, Director of Marketing and PR of Chenot Group, and Carlos Cendra, Marketing and Communication Director at Mabrian.

The last session of this first day focused on the conversation between László Puczko, General Director of Health Tourism Worldwide, from Hungary, and Joan Muro, President of the Health Tourism Association of Andorra Health Destination, in which it became clear that health and wellness tourism is not only a growing trend, but a new way of understanding tourism.

Organised by the Government of Andorra and UN Tourism, with the collaboration of the Común (town council) of Encamp, the Congress also has the support of the other Comuns (town councils) of Andorra and two main sponsors: Andorra Telecom as technological sponsor and Creand Crèdit Andorrà, as financial sponsor.

World Congress on Snow, Mountain and Wellness Tourism

The Congress is an initiative of the seven Communes and the Government of Andorra, together with the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), with the aim of creating a forum for permanent debate on the development and sustainability of tourism in mountain areas. It is organized every two years: the first edition was held in 1998 in Escaldes-Engordany and since then, each edition is organized in a different parish.

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