Parisians, Airbnb, traffic jams, the real estate boom, second homes. Here is a non-exhaustive bingo of the inconveniences experienced by all those who live in tourist areas. In Brittany, we could add motorhomes and crowded beaches, but we prefer not to overload the list. Fourth French tourist region, Brittany was one of the favorite destinations of the French during these two years truncated by the health crisis. Despite declining attendance, the region has seen voices raised criticizing the impact of tourist activity on certain sites. “For a few years now, we have heard a noise, a hubbub around the acceptance of tourism. We wanted to see how the Bretons perceived it, ”explains Jessica Viscart.
Towards increasingly sustainable tourism?
The deputy director of the Regional Tourism Committee piloted a survey of 2,200 inhabitants to find out their perception of this activity, which accounts for 8% of regional GDP. And the results are quite encouraging. “89% of respondents say they are in favor of tourist development in Brittany and 78% support the promotion of tourism”, reveals the regional tourism committee. “These results are encouraging. We want to move towards increasingly sustainable tourism. On the environmental level but also on the social and societal level. Tourism brings economy, jobs but it must not be done to the detriment of the inhabitants. Brittany is not Euro Disney, there are people who live there, ”continues the deputy director of the CRT.
The survey reveals, however, that two thirds of respondents mention “the occurrence of nuisances linked to tourism”, regretting “the rise in property prices, traffic difficulties or the concentration of populations”. “We see that the typology of stays has evolved. Before, we came for 15 days or three weeks, often to the same place. Today, the tourist is often passing through, he pecks here and there. The relationship has become strained because the stays are shorter. Suddenly, we have the feeling that there are more visitors, ”analyzes Franck Rolland. The man knows something about it. With his collective “Saint-Malo, I live there, I stay there”, he fights against “short-term rentals”. Understand the Airbnb accommodations that have invaded the inner city of the corsair city. “What worries me in the evolution of tourism is its ability to transform territories. Saint-Malo has always been a seaside town. It lives from tourism but not only. For four or five years, we have the impression of switching to the seaside resort, like La Baule Carnac or Les Sables-d’Olonne. There, in winter, it’s empty.
“More and more people all year round”
Aware of the hyper-saturation of certain sites, especially in summer, Breton communities have worked to spread the tourist season over four seasons. An option which presents a double interest: fewer visitors are therefore better welcomed and professionals can take advantage of it all year round. The other strong choice was to promote lesser-known sites, in particular by promoting the beauties of the forest of Huelgoat rather than the legends of Brocéliande. “We have seen a real attractiveness develop on alternative sites, particularly in central Brittany”, says Jessica Viscart with satisfaction. A finding confirmed by Hélène Batard. In 2017, this resident of Loire-Atlantique fell in love with the forest of Huelgoat, in Finistère. To the point of buying the La Rivière d’Argent campsite a few months later. “We are open from April to October and we have more and more people all year round. Hikers, cyclists, horse riders. It allows the village to live all year round, ”slips the owner.
Hélène recognizes that some voices sometimes rise when there are “a little too many people”. But this is quite rare and everyone can answer it in their own way. “We have customers who are surprised to see that some restaurateurs only provide one service even in high season. But it’s their choice, it’s also the price of authenticity,” she continues.
For years, attendance has been stable in Brittany, and has peaked at around 100 million overnight stays per year. The Deputy Director of the Regional Tourism Committee recalls that it is also “the available accommodation offer” that makes the attendance of a region. “In Saint-Malo, it is not in summer that the Airbnb phenomenon is the most embarrassing for hoteliers, because they are full. It’s more in the middle and low season that it’s complicated, ”adds Franck Rolland. This summer, the online platform was ordered to pay eight million euros to the city of Paris because it was slow to remove all ads without a registration number. A decision that had an effect throughout France. In Saint-Malo, 20 to 30% of offers have been removed according to the collective, i.e. around 500 housing units in Saint-Malo.
The rental platform specifies that it collected and donated 5.7 million euros in tourist tax to Breton municipalities last year, including 420,000 euros allocated to Saint-Malo and 250,000 euros to Rennes.