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“Truthfully, France is much more stunning in the present day than twenty years in the past…”


After forty-three years of excellent and dependable service in tourism, Vincent Toulotte, director of Atout France, France’s tourism improvement company, is bowing out. Best for taking inventory and dealing with the challenges of the long run as a result of vitality disaster.

Interview with Christian Marchand

Paris Match. In additional than forty years of profession, you’ve skilled a profound change in tourism. Did you expertise a “golden age” in comparison with present realities?
Vincent Toulotte. I do not suppose I knew a time when every part was performed by itself. The information of the previous ten years has been harsh and has not spared us, however I had the prospect to advertise a rustic whose vacationer assets are inexhaustible. The French provide is ready to provide all kinds of holidays in all circumstances, and it’s no coincidence that France has all the time remained the primary vacationer vacation spot on the planet regardless of the context. Regardless of the crises, whether or not monetary, safety or not too long ago well being, tourism in France has all the time come out of it effectively. And when the international markets weakened, the relay was taken over by the nationwide clientele. We are able to subsequently say that French tourism, in comparison with its opponents, has all the time proven exceptional resilience. The load of tourism has for a few years been equal to 7.5% to eight% of GDP. It interprets an excellent stability of the financial exercise of our nation and constitutes the primary sector of exercise in entrance of agriculture and the auto, whether or not it’s when it comes to employment or receipts. With an indeniable further benefit: the vacationer exercise can’t be relocated!

What are probably the most sophisticated moments that French tourism has needed to face?
The final well being disaster was extraordinarily destabilizing. It was essential to display a powerful capability for adaptation and response. Doing and undoing in accordance with the evolution of the virus has been our every day life. It was generally exhausting, irritating, however in the long run, we did not come out too badly.

How do you decide the very troublesome context that we’re experiencing now, and what would be the influence on our holidays?
It is rather troublesome to know what’s going to occur tomorrow, what the influence of the price of vitality might be on vacationers’ alternative of holidays for the months to return. Will they transfer to nearer locations? Will they lower their size of keep? Will they scale back their vacation bills by going to eating places much less, doing much less leisure, selecting extra economical kinds of lodging, preferring to take their holidays outdoors peak intervals? I’m not positive that anybody in the present day has the reply to all these questions. For the second, we consider in it and we go for it.

Will winter sports activities be the primary affected, as a result of value of vitality? What are the parades of the sector?
This winter, the price of vitality will characterize 20% of the turnover of ski carry corporations, as an alternative of the same old 5%. This improve may be very worrying, even whether it is anticipated. Nonetheless, it’s troublesome to think about that these corporations move on all of this improve to the worth of packages. It could be suicidal and they should reassure skiers. We are able to subsequently count on an affordable improve of 5% to eight% for the following season. On the identical time, these corporations will do every part to scale back their vitality payments by higher controlling, for instance, the operation of sure lifts in intervals of low exercise, by eliminating the follow of evening snowboarding, by now not heating the seats of sure chairlifts. The target is to scale back vitality consumption by 10% in two years. Fingers crossed that the snow might be there all through the season. Producing synthetic snow is energy-intensive, as we all know.

Learn additionally >Winter sports activities: every part is feasible in Les 2 Alpes!

Port-Grimaud ©Victor Joly/ABACAPRESS.COM

Relating to the summer season holidays, France can be experiencing worrying upheavals: the intense temperatures on the Côte d’Azur, to not point out the fires on the Atlantic coast, are beginning to make vacationers suppose. What options are the bosses of the sector contemplating?
These excessive heats weren’t restricted to the southern areas alone. In recent times, has the thermometer in Belgium not exceeded 35 levels in summer season? Sadly, no vacation spot is immune. Gaining altitude might be a solution. And but, the warmth wave on the coast this summer season didn’t transfer the clientele to the mountain. I concern that we should study to dwell, wherever we’re, with such temperatures.

We discuss rather a lot in the present day about “inexperienced tourism”. It has change into an actual social phenomenon. How do you establish its potential and what are the areas and locations most affected by ecotourism in France?
Growing ecotourism is a priority for all French areas and initiatives, whether or not personal or institutional, are starting to emerge, even when the tempo remains to be fairly sluggish. Nonetheless, we’ve got to maintain cause and even when this modern type of tourism respectful of the setting and the inhabitants is step by step anchored in our mentalities, our practices are nonetheless very conventional. As quickly because the well being disaster emerged, though we by no means stopped speaking about “sluggish”, sustainable tourism, holidaymakers rushed to airports, to the purpose of saturating them, to search out themselves all on the seashore and beneath the solar. This phenomenon will subsequently be sluggish to essentially see the sunshine of day. The elemental query is whether or not the follow of sustainable tourism might be at a relentless value or will generate a further value. For a lot of vacationers, the pockets decides.

“Truthfully, France is much more stunning in the present day than twenty years in the past. Native authorities have been in a position to improve their heritage”

What would be the different traits sooner or later?
They’re of a number of varieties: the event of rail appears to me irreversible, just like the splitting of holidays (leaving for much less time however extra usually), even when this follow generates extra prices, transport, and a stronger carbon footprint. Nonetheless, probably the most putting development would be the alternative of nearer, extra simply accessible locations. On this, because of its central geographical location in Europe (greater than 80% of international vacationers visiting our nation are European) and the number of its vacationer assets, France has an plain card to play. It is ready to fulfill any vacationer want. It also needs to be famous that of the 13 areas that make up our nationwide territory, 4 of them focus greater than half of international vacationers. Which means a big a part of France nonetheless stays to be found for a lot of vacationers.

Are you optimistic for this market condemned to reinvent itself?
Who doesn’t advance retreats. Tourism won’t escape it. And that’s undoubtedly the primary attraction of this career, which consistently requires being artistic, ingenious, reactive… and passionate.

Has France modified? Is it harder in the present day to “promote” it?
I have never lived in France for thirty-two years and every time I dedicate my summer season holidays to discovering a brand new French area. I shocked to see how inexhaustible this nation is. One life wouldn’t be sufficient to know every part! This summer season, I went to the Vercors. Taking a look at its awe-inspiring cliffs, I questioned why folks journey 1000’s of miles to go to Colorado in the USA, when this majestic magnificence is true on their doorstep! I had the prospect, in my life, to journey a part of the world. Usually, I’ve observed that we are likely to look very far for what we find yourself discovering across the nook. We did not take the time to have a look at it. Sincerely, France is much more stunning in the present day than twenty years in the past. To reply your query, I love the extent to which native authorities have been in a position to improve our cultural heritage, deliver it to life and change into conscious of the necessity to defend our territories. On this context, I don’t consider that it’s more and more troublesome to promote the property of those areas. We merely have to ask our vacationers to rediscover them, or to find different sides of them.

How do you clarify the Belgians’ attachment to France?
Whether or not they’re French-speaking or Dutch-speaking, the Belgians share many factors in widespread with the French, and initially that of the artwork of dwelling. Consuming and ingesting effectively – moderately – are an important a part of their trip. Added to this are the language, the geographical and cultural proximity, the extent and number of our areas, the variety of our vacationer provide.

The village of Conques in Aveyron ©Denis Prezat/ABACAPRESS.COM

What’s the classification of nationalities who come to spend holidays in France?
The UK and Germany share the primary two locations. The third is historically occupied by Belgium. In relation to its inhabitants, it’s by far the nation that sends probably the most vacationers to our territory.

How would you describe the Belgian vacationer who involves France?
He largely comes with household or buddies, he’s 45 years previous and over and belongs to the higher social lessons.

You have been born in Bergues. Are the folks of the North sung by Enrico Macias actually probably the most endearing? And is that why you had nice moments with the Belgians?
Unquestionably! My finest buddies are Belgian. I really feel at dwelling within the Flat Nation. I discover right here the mentality of the folks of the North that I left virtually fifty years in the past. Similar humorousness, identical simplicity, identical accessibility. Similar heat of coronary heart. Similar generosity and friendliness. I really feel good in Belgium. A Belgian good friend who likes to tease me stated to me at some point: “However why do the French persist in desirous to be excellent, when it is sufficient to be Belgian? After reflection, I stated to myself: “I’ve my Belgian driving licence, I’ve a Belgian provisional identification card, I dwell in Belgium. Possibly it is time for me to be excellent. »

Port-Grimaud, the village of Conques in Aveyron, Serre-Chevalier and its ski slopes: the French provide stays inexhaustible. “This winter, the price of vitality will characterize 20% of the turnover of ski carry corporations, as an alternative of the same old 5%”, notes Vincent Toulotte. “It’s troublesome to think about that these corporations move on all of this improve to the worth of the packages. It could be suicidal and they should reassure skiers. »


“A local of Bergues (the city made well-known by Dany Boon’s movie ‘Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis’), I used to be fortunate sufficient to have the ability to dedicate my whole skilled profession to tourism,” explains Vincent Toulotte. “I began out as director of a winter sports activities resort – which was not missing in originality for a Ch’ti – ​​and have become liable for the event and promotion of tourism within the Pyrenean massif in Toulouse. In 1990, I crossed the Pyrenees to affix the Maison de la France, the company in command of the event and promotion of France internationally, and I took over the administration of the Spanish workplace in Madrid. I then chained director positions in Vienna, with accountability for all of the nations of Central Europe, in São Paulo, with accountability for all of Latin America, and in Amsterdam. Since 2011, I’ve been dwelling in Brussels. That is the place my skilled profession ends, after forty-three years within the enterprise. In truth, I left the north of France on the age of 18 with a mad want to find the world… to search out myself fifty years later, an hour’s drive from the place I used to be born, and with the need to keep there. Life is usually stunning! »

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