The great French political sphere ignores tourism furiously and that creates big damage on all the plans, in spite of the antalgic speeches on “France, first world tourist destination” .
Between politicians and tourism, it’s a funny story that does not date from yesterday. Negligible quantity for some, a means of showing off for others, the tourism sector which is a big contributor to the national GDP (more than 7%) and of jobs (nearly 1 million) does not however manage to be taken seriously. serious by politicians.
Most see it at worst as a fun, recreational landscape, and at best a very secondary economic activity.
Symbolically, it suffices to note in each new government at which protocol rank at the end of the list the Minister (rather Secretary of State) in charge of tourism is found to realize how much political power pays little interest to this subject … Moreover, the tourism medal is also in the penultimate place in terms of importance in French public decorations. That is to say.
The gaze of politicians on tourism is that which one would bring to a neglected mistress, whom one does not know well and which one would take care of from time to time, and badly. They imagine tourism with finery; he is sometimes even fantasized . We dream of him as he is not and never will be. Tourism seen by political circles suffers from a serious misunderstanding.
Moreover, it must be said, the vast majority of them, whether elected territorial or national, understand nothing about the tourism industry . They are even astonished that one can speak of organization and industry – compared to that which produces tangible goods – so much are they convinced that tourism is like vegetation in nature which grows on its own and is sufficient to earth, water and sun. Without too much caricature, one can think that some understand tourism as the whale would understand the ants.
It is true that with our magnificent landscapes, our proud monuments, our rich history, our renowned gastronomy or even our statistics, false but rewarding ( France, the world’s leading tourist destination – see our article on tourism data ), there is reason to be convinced that all is well and that the crisis is only for others.
And then, what efforts should we make since things are going well for us anyway and our tourist machine is working on its own, in a sort of miraculous perpetual movement?
To their credit, the public and political authorities constantly find themselves having to discuss with representatives of the tourist industry placed in dispersed order, poorly organized, too many and never speaking with one voice, when they are not also perfectly incompetent. It doesn’t help to be taken seriously.
Tourism: fun for political powers
This ignorance of tourism by politicians is worrying when, for example, they have to vote on the subject in complete ignorance of its characteristics. But, she is even worse when they have been appointed to take charge of it. Few of the elected members of the offices of departmental and regional tourism committees, tourist offices, in municipalities and agglomerations, in departmental councils, … in short, wherever decisions are made to invest or not in the tourism sector.
Moreover, it begins at the head of the state where we have not seen the appointment for ages of well-informed, efficient tourism ministers, having weight in the government, well inspired and really interested in the sector. . In recent years, they have even scattered among several other portfolios that have nothing to do with the sector. And in the opposite case, as in 2015, the involvement of the minister in charge of tourism could have been total, but ultimately limited to well-conducted speeches, but only speeches, anyway.
Elsewhere, in the communities, the elected officials in charge of tourism are farmers, real estate agents, doctors, teachers, civil servants,… but not experienced and seasoned professionals in this discipline. “Tourism, we know! It’s been years that we go with my wife on vacation all over the world ” , we could hear from an elected official of a CDT (sic). Could a spectator claim to know how a theater works just because they go to shows regularly?
They are, however, there to reflect and sometimes do so with sincerity, but candor. Elected officials give their opinion on everything , from the important step (the color of the leaflets to be edited or the choice of photos) to the most involving (the creation of an aquarium, a modern museum or a convention center ).
And what they decide, driven by their ineptitude and their prejudices about the tourist world, is often confusing, if not catastrophic. This leads them, both locally and nationally, to sometimes initiate inappropriate and often unreasonable investments (convention center, for example: 20 projects underway in France) because they are too expensive, to pass costly and unproductive regulations, to create stupid taxes or even to allocate poorly targeted aid and subsidies.
Today, it is digital that is in fashion. All the elected officials have their mouths full and talk about it as an invention of their own, as if to show themselves in the latest modernity . We are launching a regional application accessible by smartphones here, a web-portal with beautiful photos there. But without a strategy, without a vision, without an understanding of how tourists operate. More trompe-l’oeil and waste in sight.
And what about this accumulation of tourist or para-tourist structures intended to defend each chapel and each geographical microcosm, with Lilliputian means and often derisory efficiency, which have become our great French specialty? This famous administrative millefeuille where everyone does everything and nothing, that King Ubu would envy us – drool on our lips.
And what to think of these demagogic and manipulative National and Regional Tourism Meetings from which nothing could come out of tangible so the operation was poorly conceived, too oriented and stuck in advance by its predefined responses? These Assises where politicians marched one behind the other, less to explain what they could do for tourism than to detail what tourism owed them.
And what to do with these (too) numerous parliamentary reports on the sector, oriented, frumpy,… and above all buried and forgotten as soon as they appear?
And how to approve these mountains of useless labels , wanted by the elected officials, none of which is known and recognized by the tourist clientele, for lack of promotion and more probably still of relevance?
The quest for chic and profitable tourism
But beware. From now on, we no longer want mass tourism and the poor! Already, it is necessary to think not to disturb the native voters for whom the tourists are invaders as harmful as the powdery mildew on the roses. Elected officials want chic, tasteful, remunerative and well-maintained tourism for their city, resort or destination .
So, we do everything to distribute stars do you want some here, so that everything goes upmarket, even for fake : campsites, hotels, holiday villages, restaurants, car parks, attractions, … hoping for a disappearance of the low end synonymous with ugliness.
We want tourists, but not just any. Visitors who pay off and who look good, who stay for a long time, who spend a lot. Everyone is hoping for it as if it were obvious and without giving themselves the means.
The business tourist, we love him. It brings in 2.5 to 3 times more than the leisure tourist. Spread the word. We also love tourism from distant countries with a supposed future (China, Russia, South America, etc.). It is very trendy… even if it only represents less than 5% of hotel nights in France! In short, France would like to become a sort of great Monaco.
To gratify their destination, there are many elected officials who dream of a majestic convention center, luxury hotels, restaurants with starred chefs, fashionable museums, castles in Spain … as we expected. erect glorious cathedrals in the Middle Ages.
We even come to the whims of the elect. In such destinations, they would like a palace “because we have no place to receive VIPs, for the influence of the city” . It does not matter that the latter are outnumbered and will not make such an investment profitable. In such others, a congress center is needed for costs of 30 to 80 million euros, or even more, “because it will generate enormous revenues for the city and its traders” , we believe it is good to believe. .
Of course, few market / feasibility studies are commissioned by politicians to enlighten them in their somewhat pharaonic or megalomaniacal projects. Otherwise, they are frequently cases of convenience required to validate decisions already taken by gathering all the promising arguments required. The rest deserves a smokescreen.
That there is no market to fill these beautiful structures that are expensive to create and operate is not their problem. Politicians are quickly in denial of reality , with the inevitable leitmotif of “after me, the deluge” and ” in the meantime, I am promoting the project “ .
Not to mention the countless studies and expertise requested, which end up in a crusher because elected officials oppose each other. So much public money thrown out the window.
Whims of the chosen
In any case, tourist action is never measured. We spend blindly by decreeing in a peremptory way that it is good for tourism. But, no one really knows what it brings directly and indirectly. In addition, each structure in charge of tourism always asks for more budget, a lack which would justify according to them their insufficiency of results, without one really knowing how they spend their current budget.
If France has no strategy for its tourism , there are rarely serious ones in its regions. Everything is done by piling up certainties and more or less relevant actions, decided without prior analysis, if not by political calculation games … Are we not still today laughing at all these tourist promotion campaigns of towns and cities? regions, each as improbable as the next, with their slogan rhyming like 1950s advertisements and their out of date photos? Are they not elected officials who gave the green light to such communications operations?
Either way, with our more than 80 million “official” foreign visitors, everything is fine. Why harm yourself by investing in the modernization of equipment, in tourist reception, in training, in communication,… since tourists are flocking no matter what? This official message from “ France, the world’s leading tourist destination ” acts first on elected officials who believe it to be true and sufficient to have nothing more to do than what they are already doing, generally so badly or so insufficiently.
This is how, unlike tourism professionals, who globally understand what should be achieved even if it is not always at the macroeconomic level, politicians know nothing (but pretend to knowledge), do not question themselves and do not seek to understand the complex mechanisms and the refined problematic of tourism. The bad example is given to the head of the State and goes down to the smallest village where a bombarded deputy mayor “in charge of tourism” will discover this new universe for him, like a baby bird who has just learned to fly. These are, moreover, so many pretexts to obtain financing for beautiful “study trips” abroad supposed to help develop local tourism.
We realize that there is a yawning gap between the political world and the private sector in our tourism industry, as in most others. In the meantime, in an attempt to erase any misunderstanding, politicians distribute tourism medals by shovel, decoration with a generous contingent.
However, it would be unfair to paint such a negative picture of political personnel and their interactions in tourism without saying that there are some, and have existed here and there, which have marked their passage with a real benefit to the world. profit of the sector , both nationally and regionally. Many have played a driving role in the success of promotional and image operations favorable to tourism and therefore to the economy. It would be tempting to name names on this register of honor, as on that of chess. But, the list for these would be too long.
In any case, tourism needs political leaders to build values, to give impetus, to chart directions, to globalize, to encourage,… Far from depriving them of all power over tourism – quite the contrary – , it is essential that they get information and train, that they mobilize and that they professionalize around tourism if they want to be able to continue to claim to take care of it.
For this, they will have to start by dissolving self-righteous speeches, putting an end to disguised statistics and disinformation, and putting an end to their sickly political wandering on tourism. Make way for the pros. Not politics, but tourism.
Read also ” World champion of tourism … France, what are you singing to us? “