LAAX: the place to be, for everyone?

Written by Armazi Avtandilashvili, Ben Heer, Seraphine Pfeifer & Luka Sajaia, a collaboration between students of the Tbilisi State University and the University of Zurich

Flims Laax Falera is nestled in the Swiss Alps in Surelva Grison canton in Switzerland. Flims Laax offers a wide variety of activities and stunning scenery leading to it being a sought-after destination for everyone. Not only is Flims Laax known for its stunning ski resorts and landscape, but also for its innovative approach on tourism and their "greenstyle" approach (Weisse Arena Gruppe, n.d.). 

Figure 1: Summer in a pipe, Flims Laax (Ben Heer, 2022).

Tourism makes money and shapes nature
Tourism is one of the most important economic activites in mountain regions, especially in Laax. It creates decentralized jobs in the mountain region itself but can also be replaced by tourism-related changes. For the mountain population, it is crucial that this decentralized nature of tourism is combined with local and regional resources such as agriculture/farming, crafts and non-tourist services (Bätzing, 2023). This is because the landscape is very much shaped by tourism. The importance of the landscape component in tourism should not be underestimated, and the more tourism there is in a (mountain) area, the more boring the landscape becomes (Strebel, 2005). Laax is a good example of this. All the beautiful ski resorts in winter are mountain slopes without vegetation in summer, which look more boring than beautiful. Consequently, the people living in the mountains need more than just breathtaking mountains to generate tourists and thus their income.

The "Weisse-Arena" group is huge
The Laax-Flims-Falera mountain region and its inhabitants have all this to offer. The "Weisse Arena" group offers over 100 square kilometers of mountain, 28 lifts, 5 hotels, 22 restaurants, 7 rental stations and several ski and snowboard schools. Today's tourists no longer just want a ski lift, they want an overall experience and that is exactly what the "Weisse Arena" group can offer, and this can also be seen in the statistics. On average, a tourist in Laax is 38 years old and therefore almost a generation younger than visitors to other Swiss ski resorts (Sprecher, 2021).

Figure 2: Weisse Arena (Skimap.org & OpenSkiMap, 2023 ).

Second homes as a problem for the mountain community
The problem of second homes has existed for some time, but has increased significantly, particularly during and after the pandemic. The increased tendency to move away from urban areas, combined with restricted travel options, has meant that vacation destinations in Switzerland have become more accessible even for locals. This in turn has led to an increase in demand for second homes, limiting local housing options and driving up the local cost of living. This is done by converting first homes into second homes, thereby circumventing the legal restrictions on vacation homes, which stipulate a maximum proportion of 20%. This practice leads to a loss of living space for locals and even workers (GRHeute, 2023).
Concluding we can say that tourism has a large variety of impacts on the communties in mountain areas. On the one hand tourism can help the area to evolve and offers many new jobs and inventions in infrastructure. Hereby, the Weisse Arena group has a large impact in the Laax region. On the other hand, booming tourist areas such as Flims Laax are popular places for second homes leading to limitations for locals and working people. Nevertheless, mountain areas and communities depend on tourism and its impact on innovation.


Literature: 

-Bätzing, W. (2002). Der Stellenwert des Tourismus in den Alpen und seine Bedeutung für eine
nachhaltige Entwicklung des Alpenraumes. In: F. Rest & K. Luger (eds.), Der Alpentourismus. Entwicklungspotenziale im Spannungsfeld von Kultur, Ökonomie und Ökologie. (Bd. 5, pp. 175–196). StudienVerlag.
-GRHeute. (2023). Flims hat ein Zweitwohnungsproblem. Accessed 14. November 2023 from hmps://grheute.ch/flims-hat-ein-zweitwohnungsproblem.
-Sprecher, M. (2019). Der Schneekönig. Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Accessed 14. November 2023 from hmps://www.nzz.ch/folio/der-schneekonig-ld.1623026.
-Strebel, E. (2005). Vom Tourismus geprägte Landschaft ist langweilig. SWI swissinfo. Accessed 14. November 2023 from hmps://www.swissinfo.ch/ger/vomtourismus-gepraegte-landschaG-ist-langweilig/4478500.
-Weisse Arena Gruppe—Flims Laax Falera. (n.d). Weisse Arena Gruppe. Accessed 14. November 2023 from hmps://www.weissearena.com/.

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