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New Aquitaine can do better

The New Aquitaine Regional Tourism and Leisure Development Plan (SRDTL), voted in 2018, had set an ambition at the national level: to make New Aquitaine the first sustainable tourist destination! Four years later, according to the study carried out in 2021 by Voltere Consulting and recently unveiled by the New Aquitaine Regional Tourism Committee, the results are mixed. There is certainly a strong momentum and a strong desire on the part of regional players to be part of a sustainable tourism approach, but too few players are really committed. Among the obstacles are the cost associated with the labeling process and a return on investment considered uncertain.

“1,119 actors are referenced in the study from a repository based on 43 criteria that cover social, environmental and economic aspects, which represents less than 1% of tourism actors in the region”, explains Amandine Southon, sustainable tourism and CSR manager with the general management of the Regional Tourism Committee (CRT) of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, who specifies that the inventory is only based on labeled actors, “or we also know that actors practice sustainable tourism without being involved in a labeling process. Overall, the transitions are in progress, but there is enormous leeway and a lot of support work for the actors. Many want to go there without knowing how to go about it! We will therefore have to support this transition. As far as we are concerned, we are going to turn our reference system into a self-diagnosis tool to allow players to self-assess.”

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More advanced wine tourism

According to the study, wine tourism, with 5.46% of players identified as sustainable, ecotourism and boating are among the most advanced sectors, while efforts remain to be made, particularly in the well-being sector which comes up against the lack of dedicated and recognized labels for sustainable tourism. “It should be noted that for accommodation and catering, belonging to structured networks or private groups with a strong reputation seems to encourage the implementation of sustainable development approaches”says Amandine Southon.

A very good perception of customers

The fact remains that, in general, New Aquitaine already obtains, at this stage, very good marks on its positioning in terms of sustainable tourism with customers said to be sensitive to this theme: 8.3/10 for the Spaniards, 8 .1 for the British, 7.9 for the French.

“It is very much linked to the fact that sustainable tourism is still very much associated with nature tourism and that, in this case, New Aquitaine has an image of a preserved region. That being said, we must capitalize on this”analyzes Amandine Southon who assures that there is indeed a market: “The demand is there. 52% of French people say they are sensitive to sustainable tourism, i.e. 34.70 million people, including 4.34 million New Aquitaine residents, and 15% of French people are very sensitive, including 1.2 million New Aquitaine people.

The issue of transportation to work

This study, which will be used to feed the future regional roadmap dedicated to sustainable tourism, thus launches some avenues of work, particularly in a context of global warming. “While tourism generates 11% of greenhouse gas emissions in France, 75% of which are linked to transport, we know what we need to work on”assures Amandine Southon.

On this subject, the CRT and Ademe launched a partnership project in March called “In New Aquitaine without my car”, the aim being to promote the emergence of combined holiday offers based on the notion of ecomobility. The first offers are expected for February 2023 in Bordeaux and the Basque Country before spreading throughout the regional territory.

Financial support for VSEs and SMEs

Beyond this experiment, the regional councilors voted, in March, the principle of the creation of a local mixed economy company Nouvelle-Aquitaine Croissance Tourisme to allow tourism VSEs and SMEs to move upmarket and to adapt to new demands for more sustainable products. Its purpose will be to support tourism projects carried out by companies with fewer than 50 employees, with an intervention capacity of up to three million euros per project. The support will target projects that are in line with the orientations of Neo Terra, the Regional Council’s roadmap for ecological and energy transition.

In New Aquitaine, 140,000 jobs are linked to the tourism sector, which represents 9% of regional GDP. Before the crisis, in 2019, the sector generated 18 billion euros in tourist consumption in New Aquitaine. That same year, the region welcomed 29.4 million tourists, including three million foreigners.