Sale of ‘iconic’ tourism office in French ski town sparks controversy

The traditional, chalet-style building in Courchevel will instead become a luxury jeweller

The Courchevel tourist office in the popular skiing resort is the subject of intense debate after it emerged the mayor is planning to sell it to a commercial jewellers
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A furore has broken out in the French mountain town of Courchevel (Savoie), a popular ski destination, after it emerged that the mairie is to move the Tourism Office from its historic chalet building to make way for a jewellery shop.

The Tourism Office building is built in a traditional chalet style and occupies a very visible place in the 2,500-inhabitant town. Opponents to the new plans are now calling for the resignation of deputy mayor Claude Pinturault, who is managing the move.

In an open letter to the mayor Jean-Yves Pachod, local councillor Isabelle Monsenego denounced the plans for what she called “the remarkable building of the tourism office of 1850”.

The 1850 number relates to the altitude of one of the station’s five major slopes.

Ms Monsenego wrote on her Facebook page, : “We, the elected representatives, were not able to take note of the documents relating to this decision before the council meeting [of August 11]...this emblematic location must remain a place that can welcome tourists.

"Mr Claude Pinturault, who considers it unnecessary to have a tourist office of this prestige, has decided to rent these premises for commercial use. A large number of our fellow citizens do not share this opinion, myself included.”

She added that “this property was acquired with a clause obliging it to carry out a public service activity”, which would appear to conflict with the commercial plans.

The decision appears to have been made as a result of budget pressures, the councillor has claimed. For the first time in its history, the commune is in a deficit.

However, Ms Monsenego told Le Figaro: “We don’t sell our family jewels to fix management problems. It’s too much. I am calling for the resignation of Mr Pintaurault.”

The private jewellery shop set for the space will sell items such as Rolex watches, she said, and claims that the shop could be opened before the winter.

Mairie defence

In its defence, the mairie has said that the “work has been going on for two years”, and that the move was “approved by 21 votes out of 23”. It added that large tourism officers are no longer suitable for the way people travel today.

Mr Pintaurault said that the public will still be able to find the tourism office nearby, in its “original location” at La Croisette, which is where the commune’s ski schools, lift pass offices, and guides’ offices are located.

He told Le Figaro: “I don’t understand Ms Monsenego's comments. She’s suggesting that we are giving away everything. In reality, we are keeping the most prestigious meeting rooms in the building as well as the management offices.

“The public will find the tourist information office in its original location. It’s actually a return to a previous setting, as the offices and reception of Courchevel Tourisme were located there from 1972 to 2005.”

Office controversy

The tourism office itself has been the subject of controversy in recent months. Since June 7 this year, its director, Gilles Delaruelle, has been suspended in connection with “a certain amount of dysfunction”.

In a statement, Mr Pintaurault said: “The first summons in July to notify him of grievances was completed on August 16 as part of a dismissal procedure. An investigation is underway.

"Courchevel Tourism has been the object of a succession of failures for seven years,” he said. “I promised to get it back on its feet.”

The debate and controversy have emerged six months before the town is set to host the Alpine World Ski Championships in February 2023.

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