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In permanent therapy – by David Lacombled

The tourists are back. Optimistic forecasts from professionals in the sector can be heard around the corner. Just take a walk in Paris or Nice to rediscover the pleasure of the sonic entanglement of accents and languages. Summer will be good. A season announced as all the better as it should combine, after two years of scarcity, the return of foreign tourists and the presence of French people who have rediscovered the beauty of our country.

If the barriers imposed by the health crisis are no longer in place, its consequences could nevertheless reduce the scope of the recovery. The inflationary spiral encourages the French to be cautious in terms of spending. The tourism professions lack manpower.

Economic power. With nearly 90 million visitors welcomed in 2019, France is the first tourist destination in the world ahead of the United States and Spain. Nevertheless, these two countries are ahead in terms of turnover generated, according to the OECD. The average basket is just waiting to grow. Do we still have to be at the rendezvous of the quality and diversity of the offers.

At the end of 2019, the tourism development agency Atout France estimated consumer spending related to activity on French soil at 170 billion euros. The sector employs 2 million employees, including 1.4 directly, in the hotel and catering industry, trade, transport, culture… With 6% of gross domestic product in 2019, according to INSEE, the economic weight tourism was higher than those of energy, agriculture or automotive,

More surprisingly, tourist routes and destinations also contribute to shaping political geography. The further away we go, the more radical the votes. In France before our eyes (Seuil), Jérôme Fourquet and Jean-Laurent Cassely describe “the economic, cultural and social realities that shape our country”. The results of the presidential election came to reinforce their analysis, as described by the director of the opinion department of Ifop on France culture. And this can be seen in the perception that the inhabitants of the regions have of themselves. In the first round, the Atlantic arc, perceived today as the most dynamic, voted Emmanuel Macron as a priority.

Admittedly, not all regions are in the same boat when it comes to climate, but each has a heritage and treasures to share and discover. France shines with its historical and geographical, architectural, culinary, etc. diversity. We no longer know where to turn. It must continue its investments and assume to be the most beautiful living museum in the world.

Luckily, the upcoming sporting events – Rugby World Cup in 2023, Olympic Games in 2024 – will shine the spotlight on our beautiful country even more like so many postcards sent to the rest of the world. The time to prepare for it is limited.

Territorial mobilization. The tourism sector must promote its professions and improve their working conditions in order to recruit. Commitments to ecological transition, highlighting the proximity of beings and nature, and profit-sharing in results will be all the more necessary to seduce and attract the youngest as, in most cases, teleworking and work schedules are not possible as the activity requires a presence to better serve those who are resting and having fun. Beyond that, the tourist poles will develop on their capacity to receive, to lodge well, to transport well, to feed well, but also to treat if it is necessary. This requires the unfailing commitment of local authorities, as they know how to do in so many areas.

Another lever, digital technology offers many tools and solutions to bring places to life, in situ and outside the walls, to make them known as well. If the Eiffel Tower did not wait for Instagram to be the most photographed monument in the world, social networks, images and their comments, modify the places and the routes in depth. If Parisian cafes now drape their storefronts with flowers and plants, it is also to be “instagrammable”. These sites are today the first travel guides.

But digital can only be reduced to an additional promotional channel. Its applications, guides such as virtual tours offer additional rooms, without pushing the walls, to better welcome visitors and help them discover without having to move. An intimate bond, including during periods of forced estrangement, is preserved. Tourism, an invention of the XXe century, thus offering the world the opportunity to rediscover its history and its heritage in order to better build its future.

David Lacombled is president of Villa numéris.

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