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Society

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Nous entrons dans une autre période du tourisme

by Interview with Jean-Marc Coppola, by Christophe Deroubaix

Published in l'Humanité on 14 May 2005

France: We are Entering a New Time for Tourism

Translated by Ann Drummond

Translated Sunday 7 May 2006, by Ann Drummond

For Jean-Marc Coppola, the President of the Regional Tourism Committee of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA), the region should draw on its cultural assets and its heritage, so that it can promote a real ’added extra’ within the setting of a favourable climate and landscape.

"We are Entering a New Time for Tourism"

HUMA: This is a time of massive changes in tourism. Could you give us a broad outline of these changes?

JEAN-MARC COPPOLA: The most significant structural factor, as far as the tourism industry is concerned, is the growth of global competition that is being speeded up considerably by internet development. Many countries are investing a great deal, especially in developing major tourist complexes or conducting large-scale publicity campaigns. Tourism often represents the main asset in their economy. I’m thinking of the North African countries, Thailand and Croatia. They are each offering a quality product, but one which is still stereotypical (sun, sea). Product for product, their prices are often lower than those we are used to in France. In terms of straight competition then, we are witnessing a new distribution of tourist holidays worldwide. The drop in transport costs is benefiting this phenomenon. We really are entering a new era in terms of tourism.

HUMA: What are the consequences for tourism in PACA?

JEAN-MARC COPPOLA: In the context of this new deal, which will be long term, France (with 70 million foreign tourists coming here each year) and our own region (with 35 million tourists, both French and foreign) are having to look again at what they are offering. As far as PACA is concerned, we had a situation of hand-picked tourism, where people came here automatically, attracted by the sun and sea. We have to draw on all our cultural and heritage assets. I’m not pessimistic about it, as this is what tourist expectations are, becoming more and more curious, increasingly in search of new discoveries. Within the setting of a favourable climate and landscape, we can offer different products which are a real ’added extra’. With the spread of holidays throughout the year, changing tourist habits can also present us with opportunities to provide steady employment throughout the year.

HUMA: If you think of the fall in visitor numbers the region has experienced since its peak in 2001, it looks as if the assets you mention are still not being fully exploited.

JEAN-MARC COPPOLA: We won’t be able to reverse the trend all of a sudden. We may only see some shifts which will lead to a stable position, or even a slight increase. But we certainly have to position ourselves over a long period of time. It is not just enough to realise our assets, we also have to think of the economic context with purchasing powers levelling out, or even declining. What’s for sure is that the average tourist will be less likely to spend money, especially when what is on offer is not always of the highest quality. That is why our region has been particularly affected. It is partly true, but one shouldn’t generalise. The question of cost represents an obstacle. We have to make the industry professionals aware of this, so that they won’t apply inflationary prices and persuade those few among them - a minority - not to take tourists for cash cows. And we have also launched some research into the relationship between quality and price. It is due to be published in June.

HUMA: What arguments could you use to persuade a tourist to spend his summer holidays in PACA, rather than, say, Croatia?

JEAN-MARC COPPOLA: I don’t want to encourage national bias, but I would say this: beaches are only one side of what our region is all about. There are many other treasures, a wide selection on offer to tourists from tourist industry professionals who have shown their considerable knowledge and even some very interesting prices. People should be careful not to fall into the trap of tempting offers in ’exotic’ countries which could have some surprises in store.

HUMA: Yet in spite of everything, PACA seems to suffer from a negative image in terms of prices and hospitality.

JEAN-MARC COPPOLA: That’s true, and some of the industry professionals are well aware of this. Additionally, I appeal to tourists to be more active in showing their dissatisfaction, or their satisfaction. There has to be greater dialogue between them and tourist industry professionals. And in future, there is no doubt that our Regional Tourism Committee will increasingly be supporting those who are making real efforts to provide high quality services at reasonable prices and to give our visitors a warm welcome.

HUMA: You are in the middle of preparing a regional tourism plan. What are its aims?

JEAN-MARC COPPOLA: We are meeting with those involved in the tourism industry in every département in the region, to get a clearer picture of the situation to start with. Then, until the end of the year, we will develop the plan itself, which will not be a managerial document, but a hands-on project which puts the emphasis on practical questions (training for employees and industry professionals, improvement of working conditions and salaries, the development of tourism models which encourage the use of the whole territory, all year round ...) at regional level for the period from 2006-2010. Bearing in mind the separate roles of everyone involved, we intend promoting partnerships.

HUMA: In a world of highly competitive tourism, what contributions can a responsible communist make?

JEAN-MARC COPPOLA: Firstly to really take into consideration the economic, and especially the social, side of tourism. Of course there is the question of employment. Tourism is one of the very few economic activities where jobs are not covered by regular contracts. Equally, the social aspect involves the question of the holiday period. We have to follow up and develop what was done by Michèle Demessine [Tourism Minister from 1997 to 2002 - Ed.] in relation to access to holidays, the right to holidays for everyone. It is also about promoting social and collective tourism in a region which is mostly known for its luxury market. In this respect, I am pleased about the World Tourism Congress being held in Marseilles and Aubagne. For a responsible communist, the most important thing is that the spin-offs work to the advantage of everyone in protecting people and their habitat. For a more humanist social project based on solidarity can’t wait for better days to come. We can show it works, here and now.

Original French text on l’Humanité’s Website:

http://www.humanite.fr/journal/2005-05-14/2005-05-14-634386


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