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Valérie Pécresse: "We need to look ahead and learn the lessons of this crisis"

Interview with Valérie Pécresse, President of the Ile-de-France region, who looks back on the actions implemented to support tourism professionals in the face of the crisis linked to Covid 19. She also shares the assets of the destination and the possibilities of development to optimise this economically important activity for the region.

The COVID-19 pandemic has strongly affected the tourist market, what has been the impact for the Île-de-France region?

Valérie Pécresse: Paris Ile-de-France was the world's leading destination, with more than 50 million tourists in 2019. The epidemic has therefore had a major impact on our destination. In the first half of 2020, we were able to estimate the loss at more than 15 million tourists. And this continues in the second half of the year, following the evolution of the epidemic and therefore the restrictions put in place.

For the first 6 months of the year, this represents a loss of 7 billion euros compared to 2019, that is to say 1/3 less than last year's economic impact.

Does this crisis have a uniform impact on all the territories?

Valérie Pécresse: While the crisis is having a heavy impact on all territories, it is certain that the heart of the destination, which is very urban and dense, is suffering greatly. Between 1 July and 3 October, for example, tourist numbers were twice as high in Îlede- France outside Paris than in Paris itself. Interview with Valérie Pécresse, President of the Île-de-France Region

It is clear that the people of Ile-de-France and the French, who made up the majority of our clientele during this period, preferred to leave the heart of the conurbation for their weekends or holidays. 

What measures have been taken to support the tourism sector?

Valérie Pécresse: The Region has been mobilised since the beginning of the pandemic by setting up business support schemes. In particular, we have contributed 156 million euros to the national solidarity fund. 19% of the aid from this fund, that is 300 million euros, went to companies linked to tourism in Ile-de-France. We have also set up a system of rebound loans, and again 12% of the loans concerned the tourist sector, representing 30 million euros, or about 600 Ile-de-France companies. Finally, we have deployed a Resilience Fund for Ile de France and local authorities, endowed with 100 million euros, which is aimed above all at companies that cannot benefit from the other schemes, and here again the tourism sector and, in particular, the hotel and restaurant industry, represents about 25% of the requests. Almost 400 businesses in the tourism sector, mostly VSEs, have already benefited from a repayable advance for a total amount of 11 million euros.

We can therefore clearly grasp by these figures, the over-representation of the tourist sector, with regard to its weight in the regional GDP (around 7%), and thus the major impact that this crisis has on its daily life.

I wanted to accompany these immediate support measures with a recovery plan carried by the Paris Île-de-France Regional Tourism Committee, which focused on several axes.

First of all, we have launched a promotional programme in France and internationally to maintain contact between the tourist offer and prescribers. We must therefore be ready as soon as it is possible to travel again.

We have also launched a certain number of communication campaigns aimed at the public, in order to make people want to come and visit our territories again. This summer, CRT ran campaigns aimed at the people of the Ile-de-France region and the French, before going to seek out local European customers when travel is once again possible.

We are also working on a support plan for the territories' projects, notably on investment with the Regional Fund for Tourism, or thanks to the CRT teams, who have been strongly mobilised at their side, in terms of engineering or training. We obviously rely on the territories to invite the people of Ile-de-France to discover or rediscover their region.

Finally, we have, in record time, brought out a certain number of projects, such as the Paris Region Aventures application, which allows Paris Region families to set off to discover 30 adventures spread throughout the territory.

Paris and Île-de-France are MICE destinations, an activity that normally generates significant revenue for the destination and its players. What have you put in place to support this sector?

Valérie Pécresse: The MICE sector is indeed a major vector of attractiveness and economic impact. Its dynamism makes Île-de- France the world's leading destination in this field. The crisis has considerably slowed down this sector, and the Region is committed to supporting it. With Promosalons, the Paris Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) and Viparis, I wanted to reaffirm the extent to which our destination offers all the health safety guarantees necessary for the smooth running of events. This is fundamental for the future, in order to reassure event organisers. We are also going to work with the players in the sector to go back and look for clients and guarantee a return to business as soon as possible.

How is aid structured around cultural and heritage sites that are strong vectors of attractiveness for the destination?

Valérie Pécresse: In addition to support funds and rebound loans, we wanted to accompany tourism players, and in particular cultural and heritage players, in their projects related to health safety. Thanks to the Regional Fund for Tourism, we have thus been able to support 23 projects for tourist sites wishing to adapt to the new demands of the clientele and provide real reassurance in terms of health safety.

What do you think will be the greatest challenges of this revival?

Valérie Pécresse: There are many challenges. First of all, we have to get through this crisis and provide the tourism sector with all the support it needs to limit the economic and social consequences. This is a major challenge, and I have called on the State on many occasions on this issue, to ensure that the health measures taken are accompanied by unprecedented economic support measures.

The next task will be to accompany the rebound in tourist activity, because it is certain that when the situation improves, all destinations, especially European ones, will want to attract tourists again. Paris Île-de-France must remain the first of them. We must collectively ensure that the dream of our destination is nurtured among our customers.

Finally, and this is a fundamental element, we must project ourselves into the future and learn the lessons of this crisis, particularly in terms of changing behaviour. I am convinced that travel will remain a major cultural element of the world in which we live, and therefore that the tourist activity will continue to develop. But the multiple crises we have experienced since 2015 have proved that we need to strongly strengthen the resilience of our destination and its stakeholders. We therefore need to anticipate more strongly and that the tourism sector is transforming itself in order to adapt to the profound changes in our world: ecological transition, innovation, agility of the professionals.

It is for this reason that I wished to initiate, at the same time as the regional elected representatives voted on the recovery plan, the drawing up of the next Regional Tourism and Leisure Development Plan for Île-de-France 2022-2026. 

We must indeed both revive the activity today and tomorrow and re-enchant the destination for the future. We will have to host major international sporting events, such as the Rugby World Cup in 2023 or the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024, and they must be an opportunity to showcase our excellence, and thus guarantee the sustainable development of tourism in our territory. These are major opportunities to be seized to ensure the dynamism of this sector of activity so fundamental to the Region.

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