This unit’s aim is to utilize the trades of excellence that make France’s reputation to offer innovative, creative tourism opportunities, inviting visitors to drop in on craftspeople’s workshops, showrooms and museums and discover another facet of our country.
By so structuring an industry around excellence and making craftspeople and tourism stakeholders work together more, France hopes to attract new types of tourist as well as to encourage them to visit areas other than those that currently receive the lion’s share of visitors.
The aim of the “Excellence” Unit is to coordinate the different stakeholders of excellence and tourism, so as to establish an effective tourism showcase for French excellence and promote it effectively to tourist customers, especially those from abroad..
Indeed, "excellence” tourism is part of a real fundamental trend. Both French and foreign visitors are increasingly interested in a unique, authentic experience.
France’s extraordinary diversity of traditions gives it great means to be the leading destination for “excellence” tourism. That means structuring a more recognisable and visible offer..
There are, for example, cities and regions which have one or more historic trades that contribute to their identity and reputation, such as Baccarat Cristal, Limoges porcelain and Limousin leather. For such types of excellence, we aim to structure and enhance the current offer in order to propose genuine integrated tourism circuits, working with all sector stakeholders.
Conversely, in cities that are already tourist destinations, the aim is to offer workshop, business and museum visits and events in order to create an additional, original tourist experience.
We also aim to identify and encourage businesses to better accommodate tourism and the opportunities generated by opening their premises to visitors.
Lastly, the unit could work with the businesses of the "Living Heritage Company" label to support them in opening up their workshops and premises to visitors and in creating a tourist circuit. This label is a mark of recognition from the French State, put in place to reward French firms for the excellence of their traditional and industrial skills. The “Living Heritage Company” label covers 7 major sectors: Professional equipment, Built heritage, Decoration, Tableware, Gastronomy, Culture and Leisure, and Fashion and Beauty.
The Excellence Unit will be led by Luc Lesénécal, CEO of SAS Tricots Saint-James, Lower Normandy French Foreign Trade Advisor and Chairman of the Regional Committee of French Foreign Trade Advisors of Lower Normandy since June 2014. SAS Tricots Saint-James is a “Living Heritage Company” and offers genuine tourist circuits. That allows it to play an outreach role, explaining to customers and consumers the care that is taken in manufacturing products and highlighting the specific expertise of the company. It can thus play its part as an economic and tourism stakeholder in the Lower Normandy region.
“Excellence” tourism is a way of travelling for an authentic experience, with the aim of discovering unique skills or learning a renowned, rare expertise. It involves seeking special encounters, parallel to conventional tourism activities.
This tourism sector is closely tied to cultural tourism and all forms of tourism promoting the acquisition of knowledge and the history of destinations.
Discovering the craft trades of the region they are visiting provides activities for tourists and is a guarantee of authenticity, while tourist showcasing is an opportunity for craftspeople to demonstrate their skills, promote their activity and receive potential customers.
There are over 38,000 companies and 100,000 jobs in the craft trades sector alone. These are often SMEs, but also small workshops or factories.
Business and workshop tours have been increasing fast in recent years in France, but this sector still has considerable development potential. It corresponds to increasingly strong demand from certain tourism clientele. The French tourism offer needs to be structured to support this new form of tourism , and offer French and foreign visitors different circuits.
All France’s regions have real potential in this sector, and many local and regional government bodies are committed to efforts promoting local excellence, with the creation of tourist circuits and promotional events.
But taking on board the tourism dimension remains underrepresented and stakeholders often work in isolation from the rest of the tourist offer and the overall visitor experience. These initiatives therefore remain poorly visible to the public, especially international clientele.
These visits also raise the question of training for craftspeople in dealing with tourists. They need to welcome tourists, explain their trades and carry out demonstrations while running their workshops all the while. They therefore need to be supported.
Date of publication: october 2014