The ‘Centennial Effect’
Catherine Oden, Director, Atout France, speaks to about how they managed to up their international tourist arrivals with the help of a coherent strategy.
The Year 2014 marked the Centenary Year of World War. It is interesting to note that the Indian army also played a significant part in this World War. In August 1914, as the German army made rapid advances in to Belgium and France, the Allies found themselves in want of more manpower to guard the Western Front. With its strength of 161,000 men, the Indian army of Undivided India seemed the best option and the Lahore and Meerut infantry divisions were selected for service in Europe. They were thrown into battle near Ypres soon after they arrived in early October and both divisions incurred heavy losses. After the First Battle of Ypres, Khudadad Khan became the first Indian to be awarded the Victoria Cross.
How did you leverage this piece of history to attract more tourists to France?
As part of boosting remembrance tourism to various sites, the ‘ Great War Centenary Destination’ was implemented in November 2013. This kick- started an unprecedented collaboration among players in the remembrance tourism industry. A coherent strategy allowed those promoting sites on the Western Front to work together under one banner – ‘The Great War on the Western Front’. By joining forces they were able to achieve a greater visibility on an international level.
What kind of attractions did the visitors get to experience?
Visitors were privy to artistic depictions in the form of installations and exhibitions new site openings and renova- tions. Visitors also had the opportunity to embark on remembrance trails tracing the footsteps of the war.
has this boosted the number of visitors to memorial sites?
In 2014, remembrance tourism benefited greatly from the ‘Centennial Effect’. The establishment of the Great War Centenary Destination Agreement stimulated a significant growth in the number of international visitors, particularly for sites in the Western Front regions. First World War commemorations boosted the num- ber of visitors to memorial sites in 2014. Certain sites on the Western Front even doubled their admission numbers, surpassing the attendance levels for all of 2013 as early as August! This has been a veritable windfall for accommodation providers, who have also seen a rise in reservations for 2015, and even 2016. In addition to an increase in tourists from European countries, professionals have also noticed a notable increase in the number of long-haul visitors.
did you promote this in India?
In order to inform both travel trade professionals and the discerning audience about efforts undertaken in this domain, press communiqués on the activities planned for 2014 were diffused to B2B and B2C press as well. Articles on Centennial events were also published on our website – www.rendezvousenfrance.com – as well as our social media platforms.
The establishment of the Great War Centenary Destination Agreement stimulated a significant growth in the number of international visitors.