The mountains: a symbol of balance and harmony with the area 

Mountain tourism is a rapidly growing sector, with significant potential for the future. The UNWTO (World Tourism Organisation) estimates that mountain tourism represents between 9% and 16% of total international tourist arrivals worldwide.  According to the Bank of Italy, in 2022, three million foreign tourists visited Italian mountain resorts, spending a total of €2.7 billion.  This trend is also due to new trends (such as “coolcationing” – vacations seeking cooler climates) and the growth of wellness, sports and outdoor tourism.  

 

Operations  

“In terms of the hotel market,” comments Alessandro Belli, partner and head of hospitality Italy at Cushman & Wakefield, “2023 was characterised by various operations (rebranding, conversions, renovations, developments), especially in 5-star accommodation facilities located in Italy’s main mountain tourist destinations, such as Cortina D’Ampezzo and Courmayeur, demonstrating the growing interest of international brands and investors in mountain destinations.”  

UniCredit considers the hotel asset class one of the most relevant to develop within its real estate credit portfolio,” says Lorenzo Vianello, real estate strategic advisor for the bank in Italy.  “Amongst other projects, the bank is financially supporting the repositioning of the Cristallo Hotel in Cortina, confident that this project, like many others in Cortina, will contribute to revitalising this wonderful resort globally. The hope is that the momentum from the Winter Olympics will also drive significant projects in other mountain resorts.  Plus, in keeping with our recent commitment to supporting the energy and digital transition, since the third edition of UniCredit for Italy a few weeks ago we have made a new €1 billion credit line available to operators, aimed at investments in the sustainable redevelopment of accommodation facilities.” 

“After last year’s success, we will return on March 27, 2024, to Cortina together with Cushman & Wakefield, Luiss Business School, Confindustria Veneto and Confindustria Belluno Dolomiti to discuss mountain hotel investments. This is a sector that is still relatively unexplored but undergoing profound changes.  With the current momentum related to the 2026 Olympics, the goal is to observe the profound transformation and development keys of Italian mountain tourism with a careful look at comparisons with international experiences: an insightful analysis where it is important to maintain a balance between the need to increasingly open up the offer to foreign markets whilst also supporting and enhancing the identity of the territories,” says Maria Carmela Colaiacovo, president of the Italian Association of Confindustria Hotels.  

Mountain tourism has often been almost exclusively associated with winter sports, with tourist offerings concentrated in the colder months.  “The potential is much broader,” states Belli.  “It’s not just ski slopes, but also trails, lakes, forests and mountain villages, often UNESCO heritage sites, that can become tourist attractions throughout the year.  Deseasonalising tourism through the expansion of activities and service offerings is a matter of urgency in the face of climate change.  More attention paid to environmental sustainability is essential for tourists but also a priority for companies in the mountain tourism sector.”  

The keywords for mountain tourism, in addition to seasonal adjustment and sustainability, are also “requalification of assets, service quality, digitalisation, the management of generational transition in hotel ownership structures, employee training and loyalty, promotion and organisation of events throughout the year,” continues Belli.  

Events like the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Olympics are fundamental accelerators and media visibility catalysts, but, according to the manager, they must leave behind a well-organised stakeholder community that can respond to the challenges of the future tourism market.  

 

A transition phase for the mountains  

Aldo Melpignano, founder and CEO of Egnazia Ospitalità Italiana, believes that mountain tourism is undergoing a profound transition.  “The demands of sustainability are becoming increasingly urgent, and climate change is increasingly influencing tourist seasons.  Today more than ever, it is essential to reconsider how we experience the mountains, creating deeper ties with the territory.”  The mission of his group is therefore to offer “an experience that goes beyond breathtaking views and sports attractions.  We are committed to creating programs and services designed to enrich the lives of guests and promote a balanced lifestyle in harmony with the energy of the place.”  The group led by Melpignano has started a development process in mountain tourism starting from the Dolomites.  It is working on Cortina d’Ampezzo, a destination facing a rich period for opportunities and changes.  

“Since 2022,” continues the founder, “we have been managing the Hotel de Len, an innovative project based on sustainability and well-being, where we offer a contemporary experience that reflects the vibrant atmosphere and vitality of the Dolomites.  The opening of the Ancora Hotel by Renzo Rosso is scheduled for 2025, of which Egnazia Ospitalità Italiana will oversee operational management. It is one of the symbols of the city for its historical relevance and location,   and is the fundamental hub of social life for people who live in this city both in winter and summer.”  The group will also open Castel Badia in San Lorenzo di Sebato, near Brunico, in 2025.  “It’s a project that excites me,” he states, “because it involves the redevelopment and enhancement of a historic 10th-century castle located on top of a wonderful mountain. Today we are continuing to look for other jewels to add to our portfolio.” 

 

The roots of Falkensteiner 

The development of hotels in mountain destinations has always been a crucial factor for the Falkensteiner Hotels & Residences group.  “Our roots lie in the mountains,” says Erich Falkensteiner, chairman of Falkensteiner, “and that’s where we started on an entrepreneurial journey in the hotel industry that has brought us to where we are today, with 31 properties – including hotels, resorts, apartments and camping grounds – in 7 European countries, and these numbers are set to grow.”  Nevertheless, their thoughts always return to Val Pusteria, in Chienes, where it all began, “in the house where my brother Andreas and I grew up with our parents,” the entrepreneur explains.  “That house is now the Falkensteiner Family Resort Lido, a hotel that we recently renovated and which represents the hallmark of our belief in tourist development that is increasingly attentive to the needs of the contemporary traveller.” An excellent result that also keeps ties to their origins alive by providing warm, family hospitality, attention to every detail and respect for the spirit of the destination and the identity of the hotel.  The Falkensteiner Hotel Kronplatz, for example, was opened in December 2020, amidst all the pandemic-related difficulties, and it also represents the group’s way of understanding the mountains and the Alto Adige area. “We invested budget and expectations in a project by Matteo Thun, and the choice rewarded us,” Falkensteiner continues. “The hotel integrates perfectly with its environmental context and offers a luxurious and highly comfortable contemporary Alpine-style holiday.  But we haven’t only worked on these hotels in the last four years.  We have opened another new one in Montafon, Austria, which is our first family eco-resort, an extremely interesting challenge for us, and a sort of starting point for sustainable hospitality.  And last of all, we have worked on concepts and some important renovations in all the other mountain hotels between Alto Adige and Carinthia, in Austria, to adapt products to the challenges of today.” 

Laura Dominici

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