“Tourism is crossing space-times”

How is tourism doing in Hauts-de-France at the start of the season?

Jean-Philippe Gold: As soon as the 10 kilometer rule was abolished, we experienced an exponential increase in reservations. Particularly on the coastal and rural part. We had two striking phenomena compared to previous years: reservations made a few days in advance, within very short deadlines, and the long weekends in May, often devoted to couples, which turned into family trips. Sometimes even with several generations, grandparents, children and grandchildren. This reflects a need to recreate the link.

I am quite confident, with the gradual reopening of restaurants, places of culture, especially museums, we will see a return of urban tourism.

Was 2020 a bad year for you?

Jean-Philippe Gold: We recorded a drop of 20% compared to a national drop of 30%. We even benefited from the contribution of a regional and Ile-de-France clientele. Many Belgians and Britons also visited Hauts-de-France, even if they quickly left when the government put in place more restrictive health measures. The month of July, for example, was a month of higher attendance than the previous year.

In terms of tourism, in your opinion, has this crisis been well managed?

Jean-Philippe Gold: Faced with this totally new and unknown situation, I do not want to enter into this debate. To be objective, I think that this crisis acts as a catalyst in an already existing phenomenon, on two levels. Tourism, more than ever, must move from 100% digitized times to 100% disconnected times. Tourism has also entered a time of self-transformation. It’s the reconnection to oneself: we wait to be able to leave our stress, to be able to reconnect with our loved ones, to have recharged our batteries, to have relaxed and that there is really a before and an after. People no longer want to suffer but to be actors in their stay and derive benefits from it.

We support territories in the “design” of experiences. We want to reinforce the value and relevance of the offer before it is broadcast.

You talk about immersion…

Jean-Philippe Gold: It is a key element. Tourism is about crossing space-times. One of the ways to cross it is immersion. We see it through the role of digital arts, such as L’Atelier des Lumières in Paris in the 11and, the Bassins de lumière in Bordeaux, the example of immersive theaters in cities… We are no longer just spectators, we are at the heart of the stage. And there, we cross another space-time. Traveling is also another way to discover heritage and culture through walking or hiking.

Another example that we are witnessing more and more: rental in tourist residences in which teleworking is practiced, which makes it possible to extend the duration of the weekend. We are witnessing a hybridization between work and leisure, where immersion in a tourist place is also at the service of a more relaxed way of working, by having time to breathe…

You also write: “Our job is to be a platform”?

Jean-Philippe Gold: Today, we have become platforms that produce content. We create flows, interactions between visitors and hosts, in the service of the confidence of the Internet user. Trust is the fuel of the digital economy, through comments, ratings or testimonials.

For the 2021 season, most of your CRT colleagues are preparing major communication campaigns. And you ?

Jean-Philippe Gold: We have chosen a BtoBtoC logic. That is to say, to accompany the actors in the change, so that they can have a more segmented offer. We support territories in the “design” of experiences. We want to reinforce the value and relevance of the offer before it is broadcast.

Professionals in the region have suffered a lot. What can you tell them now?

Jean-Philippe Gold: We can seize this crisis in the form of opportunities. In this fog, the beacon will be the quality of the customer experience. It is this value that we must deliver. I have great confidence in the actors of the territory, because they will “take care” of their visitors. There is more than ever a need for attention, empathy, collusion in the success of the stay.

When you are the boss of a large CRT, how do you experience this crisis?

Jean-Philippe Gold: You must already be able to apply your own inner transformation, look at things in a different way, find solutions. Today, we are on the front line, in the management of stress and the fact of facing teleworking, which can have advantages but also disadvantages. We must guarantee resourcing, the evacuation of stress, the enrichment of ties, bringing joy and well-being. We have also worked with the territories to offer “well-being” appointments. Each territory imagines and creates by putting its own sensitivity, its own identity. For example, some offer Silviotherapy, these walks in the forest that allow you to recharge your batteries in contact with the trees. Others schedule gourmet walks with restaurant owners or sophrological walks. Currently, we have more than 500 well-being appointments scheduled for 2021, so that residents and visitors alike can experience this art of taking care… of oneself.

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