“Destination France”: Can Jean Castex’s plan develop green tourism?

“What do you mean by green tourism? The question asked by Didier Arino has the merit of being direct. And it is not really by immersing himself in the speech of Jean Castex, who unveiled the “Destination France” plan on Saturday in Amboise, that the director general of the firm Protourisme found the answer. The Prime Minister’s proposals go jumbled up from the creation of new cycle routes to adaptation assistance for tourist trains, but there is nothing to really define what eco-responsible tourism would be.

“All the new start-ups in the sector integrate this dimension,” defends Armelle Solelhac, CEO of SWiTCH, a foresight and strategy agency specializing in tourism. In particular in the field of hosting, where new platforms offer solutions with little or no impact. Because faced with the “disappearance of the hotel offer in 80% of our territories”, denounced by Didier Arino, rental between individuals has become the norm. But these homes are often energy sieves, making housing the second heaviest item in the carbon footprint of tourism, after transport.

Renovating accommodation, mission impossible?

Armelle Solelhac regrets that “in the mountain resorts we are in categories F or G as in La Plagne or Tignes”. In theory, such apartments should no longer be rentable in 2025. But by then, “not a single resort will have 100% correct accommodation”, especially since accommodation is absent from the plan unveiled by Jean Castex. Not a single line either on the train, which would however be the best ecological solution to drain tourists to their vacation spot, since “one inhabitant in two of a large European metropolis does not have a car”, points out Didier Arino.

Because the problem is that “tourism is a very transversal sector”, which affects the skills of many ministries. However, “unlike Fiji”, quotes Armelle Solelhac, France does not have a ministry dedicated to tourism, and the State has gradually withdrawn from the issue. “For thirty years, we have lived on our achievements” and “we are very much in self-satisfaction”, criticizes Didier Arino. The two experts also question the status of France’s “leading tourist destination in the world”, put forward by Jean Castex. “We generate three and a half times less income than the United States,” points out the director of Protourism.

Play the local card

But back on topic. Since “without a global vision” according to Armelle Solelhac, Jean Castex’s plan will do nothing to improve the carbon footprint of transport and accommodation, can it at least act on the rest? Here too, the plan turns out to be “deceptive”. “There is nothing on the mountain resort of tomorrow”, criticizes Didier Arino, for example. Without involving regions and metropolises, major players in tourism, there are many obstacles to the development of soft mobility, “which have significant interconnection needs” for the CEO of SWiTCH. However, the government does not really invest, and does not announce “no planning in time and space”.

This is where the shoe pinches for Didier Arino, who reminds us that “supply creates demand” and wants above all to rebalance destinations. He thus underlines that “80% of the territory is in reality under-tourism”, citing rural areas such as the Lot or the Pyrénées-Atlantiques. But it is possible to “promote short circuits, create harmony between inhabitants and tourists”, by identifying and choosing to specifically help these territories. Catering, by playing the card of local French diversity, and activities would then have a major role to play. “Visiting a castle has a much less negative impact than water skiing,” adds Armelle Solelhac. But this green tourism is much more the individual behavior of tourists than the action of the State …