It was a historic moment when the representatives of the municipalities of Saanenland and Pays-d’Enhaut signed the “Sarine Convention” together with the tourism managers of both regions. This now forms the legal basis for cooperation between the two regions beyond the cantonal border.
In June, representatives from Saanen, Lauenen and Gsteig crossed the language and cantonal borders and met their colleagues from the Pays-d’Enhaut in Château-d’Oex. During a festive ceremony, they signed the “Sarine Convention”, the agreement that is now the legal basis for cooperation between the two regions. It was a strong political act, said Philippe Leuba, Cantonal Councilor of the canton of Vaud, that does justice to the reality in which the municipalities of both regions find themselves. Although they have shared cultural programmes and infrastructural links like the MOB, any further cooperation has so far been hampered by the cantonal border.
The “Sarine Convention”, signed by representatives of the municipalities of Château-d’Oex, Rougemont, Rossinière, Saanen, Lauenen and Gsteig and the tourism managers of both destinations, is now intended to strengthen the region as a whole. “It’s about combining the forces of the peripheral regions,” said Councilor Leuba.
Initiative from the neighbouring canton
Although the initiative was initiated by the canton of Vaud, the canton of Berne became immediately involved and a meeting was quickly held in Saanen disclosed Toni von Grünigen, President of the Municipal Council of Saanen and co-author of the agreement.
“There have hardly been any inter-cantonal agreements to date,” said Councilor Leuba, commenting on the major step that the two regions have taken.
Toni von Grünigen explains that the impetus for drawing up such an agreement was the new sports center in Gstaad. While plans were being made for the project, the canton of Vaud could not consider the application for a contribution towards it since there were no prior examples of similar inter-cantonal agreements that could provide legal justification.
Bound beyond river banks
For the municipalities that have sought cooperation in the past, the newly signed document is a relief. “We already had good contacts with the municipalities in French-speaking Switzerland,” says Jörg Trachsel, Mayor of Lauenen. The two regions have always been bound geographically by the river Saane, which runs through the Saanenland and Pays-d’Enhaut, and the local councils collaborated as much as possible through annual meetings and the occasional joint project. Thanks to the new agreement the ties between the regions have been strengthened and any future collaborative efforts will have legal standing, which will facilitate working together more closely.
Guests know no boundaries
Sébastien Epiney, Director of Gstaad Saanenland Tourism, sees the signed document as a further development of the existing cooperation on tourism initiatives. “We already have many connections with the Pays-d’Enhaut,” he explains. “The MOB, ski resorts, a direct reservation system, and a web shop”, lists the tourism director. Epiney says that from a tourism perspective, it is important to consider the region’s guests and their needs. And this cannot be hindered by municipal or cantonal borders. It is all about offering experiences within the region in which the guests are staying, be it concerts or events in the neighboring canton or infrastructure links that operate between cantons.
Anne Christine Kempton / AvS
Image caption: From left: Frédéric Delachaux (Tourism Director Pays-d'Enhaut), Sébastien Epiney (Tourism Director Gstaad Saanenland), André Reichenbach (Municipal President Rougemont), Armon Cantieni (President Pays-d'Enhaut Tourism), Jean-Pierre Neff (Municipal President Rossinière), Charles-André Ramseier (Municipal President Château-d'Oex), Toni von Grünigen (Municipal President Saanen), Philippe Leuba (Vaud Cantonal Councilor), David Matti (President Gstaad Saanenland Tourism), Roland Berdoz (Governor Pays-d'Enhaut), Jörg Trachsel (Mayor Lauenen), Armando Chissalé (Administrative Director Municipality of Saanen), Eliane Morier (former Mayor Château-d'Oex), Eric Grandjean (Mayor Château-d'Oex), Nicole Pilet (Municipal Clerk Rossinière), Michael Teuscher (Governor Obersimmental-Saanen), Janick Lenoir (Municipal Clerk Rougemont), Paul Reichenbach (Municipal Clerk Gsteig), Markus Willen (Municipal President Gsteig); not present: Christoph Ammann (Bern Cantonal Councilor)