Who is Verbier? This was the question Pierre-André Gremaud, head of Verbier Promotion (the resort’s marketing company) asked at an information session on the 16th of October, the last before the coming Winter season.
The question was the starting point for a new, long-term marketing strategy aimed at presenting a coherent image of Verbier to the outside world. Previously the marketing director for Club Med and Mazda Switzerland, Gremaud has been in the job for just over a year, a period which has seen the dissolution of the “Verbier-St. Bernard” destination (which included Grand St. Bernard, Champex-Lac, La Fouly and Vichères-Bavon) and the launch of “Verbier-Bagnes-La Tzoumaz”, as well as the near-collapse of the huge 4 Vallées ski domain (since averted following an agreement reached by the various ski-lift companies involved).
Gremaud invited the resort’s main tourism actors (including the associations of business owners, estate agents, chalet owners, the ski-lift company, as well as Swiss Tourism) to a workshop designed to reach consensus on Verbier’s image. “Young, Progressive, Active” were the three key words used to describe Verbier. However, these only applied to Winter, whereas the perception of Summer, when the resort is dominated by the Verbier Festival, is “Old, Conservative and Passive”. The challenge, then, was to extend the “Young, Progressive and Active” image throughout the year.
This is good news for fans of mountain biking, as Gremaud believes much more needs to be done to promote the fact that Verbier has some of the best trails in Europe. In terms of image, mountain biking would become the Summer and low season version of freeriding.
But how does the Verbier Festival, which prinicipally attracts older visitors, fit into this image? Gremaud’s reply is that he wants to push a “young at heart” aspect, as well as putting more emphasis on the members of the Festival Academy and Orchestra, both of which are made up of young musicians.
And what about the Verbier Bike Fest? One of the key, stated aims of the local municipality is to develop the reputation of Verbier and Bagnes as a reference for responsible, sustainable development (including elements such as eco-tourism, reduced pollution, renewable energy use and responsible use of the mountains). This is why the municipality has welcomed initiatives such as the Verbier Institute, which plans to become the “Davos of sustainable development”. When asked how the Bike Fest fits within this part of the strategy, Gremaud replied that he is working with the Bike Fest organisers to make it more sustainable, whilst admitting that he is at the start of a process and doesn’t yet have all the answers.
A major complaint from business owners has been the state of the resort’s Website, which has not been working properly ever since it was relaunched earlier in 2014 (the previous version was also severely criticised). A new, debugged version won’t be ready until February 2015, because Verbier Promotion and the Tourist Office have decided to prioritise the launch of a new smartphone application for Verbier, which will be ready for the beginning of the season and presented to business owners at a meeting in December.
We will have more information on the key events planned for the 2014/2015 season in a forthcoming article and, in the meantime, we welcome your comments.