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Piedmont’s Alps look beyond skiing for a strong summer season

by Augusto Grandi

The gloomy forecasts of another drop in tourism for the Alpine regions of Piedmont did not come true, according to figures just released by UNCEM, the national union of mountain communities, showing an average increase of visitors of 25%.

But the increase is in comparison with 2013, because 2014 was disastrous - seeing declines of up to 70%.

“All of the classic tourist destinations are growing, but especially those that have reorganized their incoming network in collaboration with professionals of the sectors and the local communities,” UNCEM Piedmont President Lido Riba said.

By that, he means that focusing on agriculture and the environment as a foundation of a kind of tourism that is not just linked to the ski lifts of winter skiing has proved to be a winning solution.

Piedmont's alpine tourism was undoubtedly favored by this summer’s heat waves that hit cities, and prompted tourists to climb to higher altitudes.

But the most-rewarded tourist destinations were those that did not just offer protection from the heat, but also focused on local culture, traditional cuisine, the quality of treatment in farmhouse stays, inns, and hotels. A culture that manifests itself through the appreciation of the communities and not through the appearance of television personalities foreign to mountain life.

“Those who pick the mountains select a location with its own people, its traditions, it values, festivities, processions and its music,” said Riba.

And it proved a success for Piedmont that Valeria Tron, a patois singer from the Turin valleys and finalist for the Andrea Parodi prize, organized in Sardinia and open to Italian and non-Italian folk culture. Demonstrating the potential of more traditional culture to break through territorial boundaries.

Sports were also a driving force behind mountain tourism. Mondovì (Cuneo) hosts an exchange dedicated to sports tourism which is worth, with regards to equipment and apparel, approximately €14 billion euros, involving just less than 100 million practitioners in Europe.

The Alpine countries account for 55% of the spending in the sector, with greater interest in biking, trekking and hiking.

Now that the summer is coming to an end, the mountain region is already looking towards the winter season.

Though not without problems to resolve, starting with accessibility by road, which penalizes many destinations.

In Elva, for example, inhabitants are forced to double the length of their trip due to a road closed amid the neglect of the provincial bureaucracy. Health-care services could also be strengthened and not reduced, along with the issue of digital divide which, according to the UNCEM president, represents one of the negative factors that blocks tourism growth in the mountains.