Gruyères, Canton of Fribourg, Switzerland

Gruyères is a municipality with 2.150 inhabitants at the entrance of the upper Saane valley in the Northern alps. At first sight, the municipality has everything a village can wish for: proximity to agglomerations at the Geneva Lake and Bern, a mountain landscape, a medieval castle on top of a hill as a tourist attraction as well as world famous cheese.

Tourism and agriculture are the focus points of development processes. Annually, around one million tourists visit the village. The municipality has 16 agricultural businesses that produce the milk for the famous cheese and achieve relatively high prices for their raw materials due to its high added value. The tourist cheese factory documents the success since 1896 and is an outstanding tourism attraction. It does not only promote the product, but also the agriculture and it shows the enormous challenges of transhumance in such altitudes and steep slopes. A challenge which the farmers face with business communities, a machine ring and sustainable concepts of collaboration – knowing that the cultural landscape is the most important potential for the touristic development.

As most of the tourists are Swiss, the tourist location Moléson-Village, part of the municipality, wants to tripple its annual 80.000 overnight-stays within the next few years through cable cars and ropeways as well as numerous offers to summer and winter tourists. As the summer tourism has very high occupancy rates, the expansion of winter tourism has high priority in order to avoid the “empty bed” phenomenon. For all new construction it should be hoped that the outstanding and typical quality of existing reconstructions as well as the cultural treasure of timber shingle roof farms set the standard for timely constructions.

In the field of energy, the municipality focuses on the use of wood, that can be taken from the local forests. Also, the production of shingles is still handled non-industrially.

Other projects that are soon to be realised show a positive direction: under the city hill of Gruyères, a parking garage will be created that should allow for the tourist streams to be handled more landscape-friendly. The demographic change is tackled by a private investor with the construction of a rehabilitation clinic with attached hotel; the municipality will raise the number of care spots in collaboration with neighbouring municipalities.

The number of inhabitants is increasing quickly, the immigration of Portugueses is especially strong and the number of non-Swiss inhabitants makes up alost 40% of the population. For these immigrants, an informative Welcome Evening is organised annually by the municipality and several institutions. Also noteworthy is the international literature competition as part of an annual “Book Festival”. Gruyèrses has numerous associations that help form the village and make it more attractive for visitors. As a whole, the village presents as an active community that knows how to maintain and use its resources and strengths and considers change a chance.

Evaluated: 2016