“With the crisis, attractiveness and tourism are mixed”

With a degree in economics and social sciences, Christophe Alaux heads theIMPGT from the University of Aix-Marseille. Since 2015, he has been the director of the “Attractiveness and New Territorial Marketing” chair, whose steering committee brings together around thirty French municipalities. With them, Christophe Alaux works on the development of territorial marketing in order to “establish the basic principles that make it possible to achieve the objective of a balanced attractiveness for each territory”.

This year, the chair published a manifesto that aims to differentiate territorial marketing from promotional and public communication approaches, or even from commercial and branded marketing approaches. The aim is to define the contours of this specialty, borrowed from the private sector, which sometimes fails due to a lack of professionalism … or a lack of ideas. Finally, every year since 2013, the chair organizes the Place Marketing Forum, an annual international meeting of decision makers dealing with issues of territorial attractiveness to present, exchange and reward the best practices of territorial marketing and attractiveness in the world.

With the health crisis, attractiveness and tourism strategies have merged in the territories. By increasingly targeting French tourists, local authorities have made their approach more professional, setting up procedures adapted to the audience they wish to attract. Sometimes even to ward them off!

Has the health crisis changed local authorities’ tourism marketing strategies?

A phenomenon of increasing attractiveness of tourism was already underway, the health crisis accelerated it. The “tourism” competence is defined rather vaguely and is claimed by the various levels of the communities with different meanings: it includes investments in infrastructure as well as housing construction or economic development. Depending on the areas, their characteristics or their dynamics, there are interesting initiatives of different sizes.

But health restrictions, especially when traveling, have helped develop local tourism and increased citizens’ appetites to stay in their region. This movement prompts operators to align their marketing strategies with these audiences in search of authenticity. In this context, we see in particular an increase in the capacity of municipal or inter-municipal tourist offices, which develop campaigns to highlight their assets for both local tourists and their residents.

This is where attractiveness and tourism come together: showing residents that they can discover interesting places or activities close to home is an important issue to improve their quality of life. It’s the same when We contact the neighbors of intercommunal or departments who, if misled, may decide to move. Working on territorial cohesion is more important in France than in other countries.

Who are these new tourism strategies aimed at?

Rural areas have understood that three quarters of the country’s tourists are French and that contacting them is much easier and cheaper than trying to attract international tourists! We are perhaps coming to the end of the bets on little-known, poorly identified tourist destinations that often end up on 4×3 displays in the Paris metro… This new positioning seems all the more obvious as the numbers show the French have made money in this crisis and opportunities to stay abroad remain limited.

There’s a niche that’s taking over the eatery. Territories find themselves attractive, realizing that what they saw as weaknesses can be turned into assets to be valued. This is evidently the case for many inland areas which offer a very desirable relationship with nature and the countryside, especially as the services provided outside the cities can be of a good standard.

Are city dwellers an ideal target for marketing rural areas?

Oui because tourism and attractiveness come together to increase the assets of the areas: the rural terroir that attracts tourists is used to demonstrate the quality of life an area can offer to active people. The Lot department, for example, values ​​both their skilled aviation jobs and life
Outdoors. Territorial marketing is surfing on this desire for space that was loudly manifested during the health crisis.

However, we talk a lot about urban exodus, but at the moment the phenomenon is not being quantified. Between 2011 and 2014, mobility remained stable, around 11% of the French population. And 74% of people who move stay in their department. While real estate agents are monitoring the number of city dwellers interested in second or mixed homes, development projects in rural areas remain limited. We must beware of the prejudices of over-representation!

Sometimes there is a risk of overcrowding! What is “demarketing” that municipalities have resorted to?

This practice affects a handful of areas. Demarketing has emerged in European metropolises, where tourists flock to visit the same attraction. They then try to define a strategy for “resource conservation”, ie maintaining the tourist attractiveness and at the same time taking better account of the residents. This summer we saw how French natural parks adopted this practice to limit visits to sites that until then had only been visited by nature lovers experienced in exploiting these fragile spaces. The Calanques National Park was a great success. To curb the phenomenon, its administration displayed photos of its crowded beaches and its receptionists encouraged tourists to visit other nearby sites that are less exposed. For example, partnerships have also been formed with driver assistance providers, encouraging people to avoid the busiest slots and explore other places.

The demarketing should make it possible to regulate the flow of tourists while allowing the surrounding places to attract visitors, but it is not always enough… When these tools do not work, especially because they are not powerful enough to appease For the Inhabitants of these overexposed sites, the authorities resort to coercive instruments: access restrictions, quotas, etc. And here we go beyond the framework of demarketing!

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