Constituting the westernmost cape of the European continent, the Breton peninsula is located in the middle latitudes, midway between the Equator and the North Pole. It offers a steep coastline that winds along cliffs and long beaches for some 2,700 kilometers. Bordered by the English Channel to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the south, and the Mer d'Iroise in the bay of Brest, Brittany is a delight for nature lovers, who enjoy hiking the many customs trails with their coves, islets and lighthouses.
The four departments of the Brittany region (Finistère, Côtes-d'Armor, Morbihan, Ille-et-Vilaine) are marked by the Armorican Massif and the largest seafront in metropolitan France. From the bay of Mont Saint-Michel to the Loire estuary, each segment has a tourism name linked to a local element, including the Côte d'Emeraude (from Cancale to Cap Fréhel), the Côte de Granit Rose (from PerrosGuirec to Trébeurden), the Côte des Légendes (from Brignogan-Plages to Plougonvelin), the Côte d’Iroise (from Plougonvelin to Pointe du Raz) and the Côte de Mégalithes (from PontAven to Mesquer).
A heritage of defensive monuments
Brittany's strategic position destined it to playing a highly defensive role over time. The peninsula successively resisted attacks from British, Dutch and Spanish fleets before bowing to the German Occupation. From this past, Brittany has many remains that were built to protect the ports: citadels, lookouts, fortifications, blockhouses erected on the coast to watch over it and better control access of both military forces and smugglers.
Surrounded by imposing ramparts, the walled city of Saint-Malo was strengthened by a Royal Fort in 1689, built on Vauban's orders. It became a Fort National in 1789 and owes its fame to the Malouin privateer Surcouf.
In the Bay of Morlaix, the Château du Taureau, built in 1542 by the bourgeoisie of Morlaix, in an effort to block the entrance of the river from the British, is classified as a Historical Monument. The Crozon peninsula has played a major strategic role in protecting Brest, so it has built an important military heritage over the years (Tour Vauban in Camaret, Fort de Landaoudec in Crozon).
Breton lighthouses, part of Brittany's imagery
Since the 18th century, Breton lighthouses have been warning seafarers of the dangers of the coastline. Today, around 80 lighthouses still transmit their signals along the Breton coast. They are firmly anchored in the collective imagination as emblems of the sea and Brittany. Aware of this tourist attraction, Brest’s tourist professional corporation has developed a route of lighthouses from Roscoff to Bénodet.
Recreational ports are a major attraction for tourists and are known far beyond the borders of France thanks to their famous navigators. They play an important role by providing several types of services: permanent slip for boat owners and temporary accommodations for stopovers with bilingual services. Leisure and discovery activities are also available: rentals, excursions and trips on traditional boats as well as sea fishing.
Tidal mills are also part of Breton heritage. They first appeared on the Breton coast as early as the 7th century, but they multiplied in the 16th and 17th centuries. On the Emerald Coast, in the northeast of Brittany, which is famous for its high tides, may be found the largest concentration of these structures
Some private properties are also worthy of interest as they represent a significant element of heritage. This is the case of Sarah Bernhardt's former properties in Belle-Ile. The tragedian owned two villas and a fort at this exceptional site. The seaside town of Dinard has magnificent listed villas that are integral to the heritage of both the city and the Emerald Coast.
Tall ships, ambassadors of Brittany
Boats are an effective tool for promoting cooperation between nations and a means of advertising for their owners. Thus, the international maritime festivals of Brest, with Douarnenez and Ouessant in its wake, have established themselves as gatherings of traditional tall ships from around the globe. The event takes place every four years. In 2016, it welcomed 712,000 visitors, 1,050 boats and about twenty nations were represented. The city of Brest sees this event as a means of promotion to increase its influence well beyond French borders. In the same way, it acquired its ambassador, the schooner the "Recouvrance".
Festivals and trade fairs related to the maritime sector
Festivals flourish on the coast. Gatherings of old rigs are becoming more and more frequent and are drawing thousands of visitors. The
first Gulf Week was held in May 2001. This free week of events centering on five days of regattas and water sports, was also a week of celebrations and nautical activities bringing together crews, actors of maritime heritage and visitors from around the Golfe du Morbihan. This year, hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected once again for the 40th anniversary of the Route du Rhum
Museums and aquariums, poles of development
Many museums focus on the various aspects of maritime heritage, including the Lorient submarine base, which includes an "Undersea Museum" where visitors can discover the Davis Tower, a submarine evacuation simulator that was built by the Germans.
Several renowned aquariums complete the cultural tourism product offered by Brittany’s coasts. The Golf aquarium in Vannes (117,900 tickets in 2017), Océanopolis in Brest (413,000 tickets in 2017) and the large aquarium in St Malo (364,000 tickets in 2017) are the most popular examples. These structures provide support for the development of the cities that host them. Brest has been granted European funds to convert industrial sites and sectors that are reliant on the armaments industry.
The Breton shoreline is full of tourism-related activities such as boating, thalassotherapy and sea transport.
Brittany has many advantages in terms of water sports. The Brittany
Sailing League is one of the most important in France with 13,117 members, representing 15.8% of all members of the French Sailing Federation. In fifteen years, the PACA region has nevertheless caught up with the first league in France, in preparation for the 2024 Olympic Games (Marseille will host the sailing events). Sailing remains the second most popular sport in Brittany after soccer and allows the Region to host a good percentage of the seaside classes organized by schools in France.
There are 37 thalassotherapy centers in France, 13 of which are located in Brittany. The first center was created in 1963 in Quiberon, but the first attempts at the activity were made in Roscoff in 1899. Clients choose their thalassotherapy center according to the reputation of the resort and the region. Then they consider accessibility criteria: airports and rail transport play a very important role, particularly for visitors from the Paris region who frequent Brittany because it is easily accessible.
At the national level, however, this activity suffers from a lack of recognition. In France, the target countries for the activity are mainly Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Belgium. The aim is to promote the service as a fitness activity and not just a therapeutic stay. The thalassotherapy center in St Malo has innovated by inventing "Aquatonic" centers and exporting its know-how to Japan and Egypt.
Brittany Ferries and Condor Ferries are the main companies that share cross-Channel traffic. Passengers can be grouped into two categories: islanders and tourists. The former often have a high standard of living and have second homes in Brittany. The tourists, strictly speaking, are often British or Nordic people who come to spend a day in France.
A development and enhancement strategy
Brittany remains the 4th most popular tourist destination in France in terms of visitor numbers and it is one of the regions with the best renown. With 12.8 million tourists, 7.9 million overnight stays in hotels, 938 hotels with 53,818 beds, the Region has created a map of tourist destinations based on the large tourist stopping and circulation areas used by holidaymakers, who were surveyed by the ORT (Observatoire régional du tourisme) on this subject.
From Rennes to Brest and from SaintMalo to Vannes, large coastal cities are driving forces for Breton tourism
and enjoy a national and international reach. In 2017, the symbolic barrier of 100 million overnight stays was nearly broken (99,521,964).
In 2015, a working group was created to bring together all the players in tourism, transport and mobility, both private and public, as well as institutions, led by the Region, the RTC, the ICCs in Brittany and the Ademe, aimed to co-develop all-inclusive stays with Breton accommodation providers.
Combining discovery of the territory and sustainable mobility solutions, the challenge was to enable tourists to reach their place of stay easily in less than four hours, to move around at the destination and enjoy themselves. The first turnkey stay was launched in the spring of 2017. Today, there are 80 "In Brittany without my car" trips organized.
In addition to building loyalty among holidaymakers already familiar with Brittany, the economic players want to develop offers for other targets, such as excursionists or day trippers who are Bretons or inhabitants of Western France who spend just the day, without accommodations. According to the RTC's Reflet 2016 study, they represent €2,300 billion in economic benefits.
With British and German visitors in the lead, followed by Belgian and Swiss visitors, foreign visitors represent 17% of arrivals in the region, or 16 million overnight stays. Other targets under study are tourists from North America or Asia. A delegation of Canadian tourism professionals will be welcomed at the start of the Route du Rhum to discover the region. Economic actors are also thinking about the Chinese market. It is not a question of attracting motor coaches full of tourists, but of reaching a familyoriented clientele, with a certain purchasing power, who come to France for Paris, the Côte d'Azur or Alsace but are not yet thinking of Brittany as a destination
Among the leading hotel groups in the region, AccorHotels stands out with 73 properties for a total of more than 47,000 rooms (mostly economy and midscale brands such as ibis and Mercure), followed by Jin Jiang (40 properties including 13 Kyriad and 12 Campanile properties), SEH (43 properties), Brit Hotel (28 properties) and B&B Hôtels (17 properties).
Customer demand, which is increasingly oriented towards the high-end and ever more services, is not in line with the supply. In 2018, Brittany has only 1,087 upscale rooms.
A service supply focused on coastal areas
On the one hand, there are lively and touristic coastal areas, where towns are over-equipped with hotels and campsites, such as Saint-Malo (Ile-etVilaine) and Carnac (Morbihan), which have 3,3011 tourist accommodations (including 2,437 hotel rooms) and 2,881 tourist accommodations (including 519 hotel rooms) respectively. On the other hand, rural areas are struggling to keep up, particularly in terms of hotel supply.
As for Airbnb, Dataville counts 569,000 people, of 117 different nationalities, who booked accommodations via the rental platform in Brittany between September 1, 2016 and September 1, 2017. This puts the region in 7th position among the most popular destinations on the American platform, far behind Ile-de-France with 2.5 million visitors annually.
The breakdown of Brittany’s 260 towns with at least 10 offers on the platform shows that the largest number of tourists may be found in the large coastal towns: 63,000 people rented accommodations in Saint-Malo, 47,000 in Rennes and 27,000 in Vannes. But some small towns are also doing well. Carnac, for example, with its famous alignments, has just over 4,000 inhabitants, and welcomed 7,000 Airbnb visitors last year, almost twice the population.
Proximity to the sea plays a crucial role in attracting tourists. All the towns in the top 15, with the exception to Rennes, are less than 10km from the coast.
Brest Terres Oceanes
Long considered an area dedicated to military activity or industrial port development, Brest’s harbor concentrates important development potential for tourism. Launched in 2013, Brest Terres Océanes is one of Brittany's ten tourist destinations. With the implementation of the first shared promotional tools and the creation in 2015 of a Public Interest Group, the destination has entered an active phase in the development of the tourism economy in the Pays de Brest. Whether in terms of facilities or events, tourism is becoming more attractive, particularly along the coast between the towns of PlougastelDaoulas and Rosnoën.
Paimpol les Caps
With renowned seaside resorts (SaintQuay-Portrieux, Pléneuf-Val-André), and towns labeled “Petite cité de caractère” as well as a rich maritime heritage, the Destination Baie de Saint-Brieuc - Paimpol - Les Caps is committed to a marketing strategy focused on the human element. In order to strengthen its appeal and grow tourist arrivals, the Region targets those seeking simplicity, particularly through recreational and tourist events. In 2017, meetings were organized between local producers with role playing, surveys and the participation of actors to offer a friendly and meeting-filled weekend.
Southern Brittany - Morbihan Gulf
Around the Gulf and its islands (Groix, Houat and Hoedic), Southern Brittany on the Golfe du Morbihan is peppered with an internationally renowned archaeological heritage, numerous events related to boating and proven cultural dynamism. To encourage local actors to take action, the Region is making efforts to fill a gap in the number of foreign customers. In close collaboration with a communication agency and the services of Morbihan Tourisme, the Region has implemented a strategy for 2019-2021, aimed at increasing the awareness rate, linking the wellknown territories to the Morbihan, promoting arrivals of premium clientele and showing off the best of Morbihan through a high-quality communication strategy.
SAINT-MALO - BAIE DU MONT SAINT-MICHEL
The territory around the Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, recently unveiled a strategy to target visitors to the Ile-de-France region, as well as the inhabitants of Alsace and the Hauts-de-France region. One of its challenges is, in particular, to encourage visitors who come to discover (or rediscover) Mont-SaintMichel or Saint-Malo to extend their stay. Discovery of the heritage with the medieval cities of Dinan and Dol-de-Bretagne, hiking in the heart of the Vallée de la Rance and relaxing in the seaside resorts of Saint-Cast or Saint-Lunaire, there is a complete and varied offer to be developed.
While the attractiveness of the coastline remains the primary motivation for tourism in Brittany, this all the truer for the islands and island tourism. Brittany's islands have opened up to tourism and are attracting many visitors, who are either passing through or staying in commercial accommodations or secondary residences. They now face a dilemma: how to take advantage of tourism without suffering the negative consequences?
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