The sale of the ‘iconic’ tourist office in the French ski town is causing controversy

A furor has erupted in the French mountain town of Courchevel (Savoie), a popular ski destination, after it was discovered that the town hall is to move the Tourist Office from its historic chalet building to make way for a jewelry store

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

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

The number of 1850 refers to the altitude of one of the five main slopes of the station.

Ms Monsenego wrote on her Facebook page: “We, the elected representatives, were unable to take note of the documents relating to this decision before the council meeting. [of August 11]…this emblematic site 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. Many of our fellow citizens do not share this opinion, including me.”

He added that “this property has been acquired with a clause that obliges it to carry out a public service activity”, which would seem to be in contradiction with the commercial plans.

The decision seems to have been taken as a result of budget pressures, the councilor said. For the first time in its history, the municipality is in deficit.

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

The private jewelry store slated for the space will sell items such as Rolex watches, he said, and says the store could open before winter.

defense of the city council

In its defence, the mayor has said that the “work has been carried out for two years” and that the measure was “approved by 21 votes out of 23”. He added that the big travel agents are no longer suitable for the way people travel today.

Pintaurault said the public will still be able to find the tourist office nearby, in its “original location” on La Croisette, which is where the ski schools, pass offices and guide offices of the commune

He told Le Figaro: “I don’t understand Mrs Monsenego’s comments. She suggests we are giving everything away. 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 is actually a return to an earlier setting, as the offices and reception of Courchevel Tourisme were located there from 1972 until 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 due to “a certain dysfunction”.

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

“Courchevel Tourism has been subject to a succession of failures for seven years,” he said. “I promised to get him back.”

The debate and controversy has emerged six months before the city is set to host the Alpine Skiing World Championships in February 2023.

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