The sale of a ‘prestigious’ tourism office in a French ski town has sparked controversy

In the popular ski destination French mountain town of Courchevel (Savoie), Mairie has caused an uproar after it emerged that her historic chalet building was to make way for a jewelery shop as a tourist office.

The tourism office building is built in a traditional chalet style and occupies a very visible place in the 2,500-inhabitant town. Opponents of the new plan are now calling for the resignation of Deputy Mayor Claude Pinturault, who is overseeing the move.

In an open letter to Mayor Jean-Yves Pachod, local councilor Isabelle Monsenego condemned the plans for what she called a “remarkable 1850s tourist office building”.

The number 1850 corresponds to the height of one of the station’s five major slopes.

Ms. Monsenego wrote on her Facebook page, “We, the elected representatives, could not note the documents related to this decision before the council meeting. [of August 11]… This symbolic place must remain a welcoming place for tourists.

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

She added that “the property was acquired with a clause obliging it to carry out public service activities”, which appeared to be at odds with commercial plans.

The councilor claims that this decision was made due to budget pressure. For the first time in history, the commune is at a loss.

However, Ms Monsenego told Le Figaro: “We are not selling our family jewels to solve management problems. This is too much. I am calling for Mr Pintourault’s resignation.

A private jewelry store set for the space will sell items such as Rolex watches, she said, and claims the store could open before winter.

Town hall defense

In his defence, Mairi 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 big tourism authorities are no longer suitable for people to travel.

Mr. Pintourault said the public can still find it in the “original location” of La Croisette near the tourism office, 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 comment. She is suggesting that we are giving away everything. In fact, we have the most prestigious meeting rooms and management offices in the building.

“People will find the tourist information office at the original location. It is actually a return to the previous setting, as from 1972 to 2005 the offices and receptions of Courchevel Tourisme were located there.”

There is a dispute in the office

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

In a statement, Mr Pintourault said: “The first summons in July to inform him of the complaints was completed on August 16 as part of the dismissal process. An investigation is underway.

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

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

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