Coping with decline: reflecting BESTandermatt

The study examining the long-term changes a new large-scale resort brings to the Swiss mountain village of Andermatt was finalised in 2020. In a long-term and accompanying study like BESTandermatt, the research team continuously reflects processes and results. It is, however, equally important to analyse how stakeholders judge the ongoing study. How do the locals or representatives of cantonal and municipal authorities experience it? Where do they see its potentials; where do they find shortcomings? The video elaborates the positive and negative aspects.

The research team collected responses from the project steering group and the local advisory group. The researchers analysed statements and expectations during public information events and the result conference. Local actors and delegates of the government thus gave insights on what they considered to be the negative and the positive aspects of the study. This sheds light on the question of what transdisciplinary responsive research may achieve – and where it has its limitations.

The most important outcome of the study is the sensitisation and activation of the locals and their community, as participatory, responsive approaches activate those involved to engage with each other. They jointly decide in what areas actions to be taken are necessary and contact municipal authorities and representatives of the investor, Andermatt Swiss Alps (ASA), to find viable solutions to improve the situation. Thus, the study has a direct impact on the local population, authorities, and the investor ASA.

The experiences from BESTandermatt demonstrate that the local public can self-confidently stand up to external changes and the tourism resort. However, in the course of the study, it became apparent that it is challenging to involve the authorities and tourism officials in the process. One reason for this was the authorities’ lack of awareness of the importance of participatory processes, but also the unequal distribution of power between the political authorities and the investor.

What is needed is self-confidence on the part of the local authorities and the local population to understand the inherent logic of the place as a productive factor of tourism development and to work for its consideration and for the interests of the population. Self-confident engagement with tourism development means that the public has an awareness of tourism, along with a broad perception of tourism with all its advantages and disadvantages. This favours the residents’ willingness to influence the development of the community and the resort in the future.

A balance between the demands of the population and those of tourism development must be negotiated again and again through dialogue in joint search and learning processes. In addition to adequate political framework conditions, human and financial resources are needed to organise such processes and, if necessary, to involve external moderators and process facilitators.

The current situation includes further challenges. The first one concerns how research and the resort development correlate in their time frames. The investor originally intended to complete the resort in 2020 and the study was designed with this deadline in mind. However, the completion of the resort is delayed. We consider that it is still necessary to research and monitor the impact the resort has on the social structure and socio-cultural life in Andermatt beyond the study BESTandermatt. It would be interesting to conduct another small survey among the participants in Andermatt in about 4 to 5 years’ time to find out how, from their point of view, the objectives of the accompanying study were fulfilled.

The second challenge concerns the local advisory group. It served as a link enabling communication between the company ASA, the municipal authorities and the residents. After the members of the monitoring group have been continuously involved over a period of ten years, it is now time for them to take a break. What possibilities exist to involve the wider population and motivate them to get involved? What organisational form could take over the tasks of the monitoring group?

As you watch the video, think of all these challenges. How could politicians gain more interest in TDR? How would you explain these complexities to a colleague? Write down a short summary of BESTandermatt that you could use for a presentation or discussion.

Educator: Caroline Näther

Durrer Eggerschwiler, B., Egli, H., Lienhard, M., Näther, C., Schmuziger, A. & Störkle, M. (2021): Langzeit- und Begleitstudie BESTandermatt “Soziokulturelle und sozioökonomische Auswirkungen des Tourismusresort Andermatt”. Schlussbericht der 4. Teilstudie (Bericht). Luzern. Hochschule Luzern. (only available in German)

Durrer Eggerschwiler, B. Näther, C. (2021). Langzeit- und Begleitstudie BESTandermatt “Soziokulturelle und sozioökonomische Auswirkungen des Tourismusresort Andermatt”. Endbericht. Luzern. Hochschule Luzern. (only available in German)