Nouvelle-Aquitaine is the second most popular destination for the French and is third on the list for foreign visitors. We spoke to Michel Durrieu, the region’s Director General of Tourism and started by asking him about how Nouvelle-Aquitaine performed in 2017.
Nearly 28 million tourists visited the region in 2017. Our destinations and sites have achieved exceptional results: air arrivals of foreigners were up 8% and there were attendance records for Lascaux and the Cité du Vin. The well known destinations of Bordeaux, the Dordogne Valley, Biarritz-Basque Country, the Pyrenees, etc. in the region promote gastronomy, culture, breathtaking natural landscapes and innovative and unique experiences.
What are your short and mediumterm goals?
Nouvelle-Aquitaine has the assets to become the first destination of the French. The goal is also to position the region for international tourists, just behind Paris and the Côte-d’Azur. While 28 million French and foreign tourists visited Nouvelle- Aquitaine in 2017, the 30 million tourists mark will be quickly exceeded. But it is also very important to look at the income and jobs created. Exceeding €16 billion in revenue and creating more than 40,000 jobs by 2020 seems realistic.
Why should travel agents from all over the world recommend your region to their customers in priority?
Several international rankings already recognise the tourist attractions of the regional destinations. The city of Bordeaux, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been recognised as “European Best Destination”, number two of the must-see cities according to the New York Times and ranked highly as a city by Lonely Planet. On the Atlantic coast, Conde NastTraveller has selected the Ile de Ré, Cap-Ferret and Biarritz as “Best seaside destination in France and Europe”. The region has no less than nine UNESCO World Heritage sites. Visitors to Nouvelle-Aquitaine appreciate the range of 100% authentic experiences available to them.
LARGER THAN AUSTRIA AND MORE POPULOUS THAN DENMARK, THE REGION HAS THE MEANS OF ITS AMBITIONS (…)
You can take a cooking class with a local chef, go to the market with him and taste your creation; take the harvest at the winemaker or introduce yourself to the truffle harvest in the Dordogne. You can also explore the region in a different way by surveying 4200 kilometres of cycle routes, take surf lessons along the 720 kilometres of coastline, or improve your swing on one of our 81 golf courses. The destinations of Nouvelle-Aquitaine are easily accessible by plane thanks to the airports of Bordeaux, Biarritz, La Rochelle-Ile de Ré, Pau, Limoges, etc. which are experiencing strong growth. By the high-speed train from Paris, Bordeaux can be reached in two hours.
To what extent is the international stature you acquired in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs an asset for the Nouvelle-Aquitaine CRT and for travel agents?
My knowledge of the world of international tourism, I owe it first of all to my experience of more than 20 years in the biggest global groups of the tourism sector as Executive Director Spain, Latin America and Mediterranean area of Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Director Marketing & e-business at TUI Spain and Managing Director Spain and International Director of the Internet subsidiary of Nouvelles Frontières. When I arrived at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2014 – a ministry that also deals with tourism policy – it was to develop the new strategy of the “Destination France”. That experience has given me a lot in my understanding of the global issues related to the development of this sector of activity both in terms of value creation and jobs. My seat as Permanent Representative of France to the World Tourism Organisation also allowed me to weave a great deal of links with our partner countries and to affirm France’s place as the world’s leading tourist destination. With all this experience, I am now focused on making Nouvelle-Aquitaine better known for its destinations of exceptional wealth. The challenge is big! Larger than Austria and more populous than Denmark, the region has the means of its ambitions: to become the unavoidable destination when it comes to French art de vivre, a destination of authenticity and unprecedented experiences, and THE destination for innovative, sustainable and resolutely forward-looking tourism.
Photo : Michel Durrieu General Director, regional Tourist Board, Nouvelle-Aquitaine