There will definitively be a before and an after of the year 2020! No doubt that when the five partners of the SmartSports4GoodLife (SS4GL) project set up the consortium, no one could have possibly imagined nor anticipated what an earthquake this year would be.

Hereunder is a quick reminder of the Cluster Montagne’s strategy for 2018-2021 as initially planned; it comprises a strategic plan which focuses on three pillars:

  • Gathering and federating the stakeholders in mountain-based tourism around sustainable performance.
  • Promoting the members’ knowledge both in France and internationally.
  • Contributing to the attractiveness and competitiveness of mountain destinations with the inclusion of all ecosystem actors.

This strategy is served by the three following key concepts:

  1. Network: assembling the actors to reinforce business relationships, 
  2. Innovation: observing, analysing and sharing the trends and evolutions for the benefit of the whole sector, stimulating collaborative and innovative projects, promoting innovation in France and abroad.
  3. Growth: developing business opportunities with the main stakeholders in France and abroad, and stimulating employment.

It is no secret that the sport sector has been deeply impacted by the pandemic. In particular, the mountain sector has been affected with ski resorts being forced to close at very short notice and mid-season when ski resorts were still full of clients. Holiday-makers were sent back home in less than 24 hours, which perhaps resulted in long-term damages to the tourists’ experience and their willingness to spend holidays in ski resorts in the future. There were losses in the employment market as it was not possible to continue sports activities and as a result, employees were sent back home jobless despite the French government doing its best to cushion the short-term consequences.

Cluster Montagne has updated its strategy to tackle issues that arose with the Covid crisis. One of the key questions was to monitor and anticipate, if any, the needs of new members. Cluster Montagne obtained this precious information thanks to qualitative interviews. The panel was carefully targeted to represent all members’ sizes, expertise, etc. The results allowed us to adjust the priorities for short, medium, and long terms.

Unsurprisingly, the first need expressed was the importance of network. Members have underlined their willingness to share information and experience and they also stressed the need for feedback from other members about the situation, market trends, and their clients. 

As a consequence, digitalisation has become a reality for our network and dedicated events have been proposed to our members to fulfil their information needs on market trends and networks. Even if digital networks are not as efficient as physical networks, the link between members has not been lost. Each week we proposed a meeting of the Cluster Montagne members which brought about a very useful “think tank” where in the services were updated. 

The second need expressed by members was the importance of gaining insights from their direct clients like ski resorts managers and stakeholders. Our response was to offer the following service which is called the Cluster Montagne Labs. The aim is to create the opportunity for mountain resorts to express their needs to our members in order to find solutions. Indeed, mountain resorts have to remain attractive and competitive and our members are the one who are able to provide them with innovative products and solutions to fit customer’s needs. This win-win relationship is even more important in time of crisis. 

One of the major changes within our strategy concerns international markets. A majority of our members are active in foreign markets. For at least the two coming years the demand is to focus on very close European markets. However, we still keep in touch with 3 mature markets like Canada, Japan and USA, in order to share news, good practices and keep on detecting “post-covid” projects.

The SS4GL program enables each single partner to share, to challenge, and to develop new ideas. Together, we are definitively stronger and able to imagine new products and services to provide our members with relevant and good-quality services. We are convinced that Clusters will definitely be a part of the solution for the recovery plan. The commitment of the Clusters will be even more important in the months to come as we know that pandemic is going to be part of our lives and businesses for the foreseeable future. 

Yes, the context is challenging. However, what we observe at the European level is that sport companies are extremely smart, resilient, and keen on innovating. Cluster Montagne and SS4GL partners will definitively be by their side to find opportunities as well as to create the necessary conditions to aid their future successes. The next step involves endorsing the opportunity to build a common strategy among a European sport cluster.