Creative Tourism: Interview with Mrs. Marie-Claire Baills, Managing Director of the Perpignan Méditerranée Tourist Office (France)

Located in the south-west of France, Perpignan-Méditerranée is a pioneering destination that bet on creative tourism during the first lockdown, to position itself with authentic and creative experiences aimed to seduce the locals as well as international travellers. We have met the Director, Mrs Marie-Claire Baills, Perpignan Méditerranée Tourist Office, to know further about the destination and its many innovative projects. 

  • Perpignan-Méditerranée is already an internationally recognized destination, and now also a tourist reference for creative tourism. What’s your strategy?

Since the creation of our structure in 2018, Perpignan Méditerranée has been committed to creating a qualitative offer that enhances both the natural and cultural wealth and the diversity and authenticity of our territory. The crisis we are going through only confirms and reinforces this positioning around meaningful tourism. Our commitment to creative tourism is fully integrated into this approach through a selection of creative and unusual activities, representative of the cultural DNA of the destination. For this, we have counted on the collaboration and expertise of our partner Thomas Billard, the B-Holidays agency, and on the support of the global network Creative Tourism Network®, which supports us and in particular raised awareness among local stakeholder about the challenges and opportunities of this new trend, during an on-line conference. This strategy has a promotional campaign on social networks, through the creation of specific digital tools – in particular a catalog and gift vouchers – but also an event dimension with the organization of workshops in the framework of World Tourism Day at the end of September 2020, and several other projects in progress.
The recognition of our project by the Creative Tourism Network®, which validated its quality, gave rise to the award of the “CreativeFriendlyDestination” label and the opportunity for Perpignan-Méditerranée to position itself within a supported sector by the World Tourism Organization or UNESCO to name just a few of the organizations most directly involved.

 Our commitment to creative tourism is fully integrated into this approach through a selection of creative and unusual activities,

representative of the cultural DNA of the destination. 

  • What is the potential of Perpignan-Méditerranée to develop creative tourism?

First of all, the diversity of its territory, which covers 656 km ² and includes 36 municipalities, with a particularly varied geography, between the city center of Perpignan and its heritage and cultural riches, a Mediterranean facade with more than 20 km of sandy beach, the plain of Roussillon and the vineyards of Rivesaltes and Fenouillèdes in the heart of the Massif des Corbières. But what best characterizes our destination is the diversity and generosity of its creatives, craftsmen and professionals, eager to share their know-how and their passions.

  • Can you present some of the many experiences designed as part of this program?

We wanted them to reflect the authenticity of our territory. Our creative tourists can thus learn, for example, Catalan ceramics and glaze their own creations, or learn the art of weaving, with local artisans. But also discover spirulina from its collection in a producer’s basins to its use in the culinary arts, or even paint with wine under the guidance of an artist associated with a local wine estate. These are just a few of the many offers and the list continues to grow.

  • What are the profiles of travelers that you want to “seduce”?

In the current context, marked by restrictions, our target is rather local, offering a rediscovery of the territory through differentiating experiences. In this sense, creative tourism offers solutions that are fully adapted to health standards, since it is designed for small groups in order to promote interpersonal exchanges. More generally and in the medium term, creative tourism appeals to new generations of travelers who, at a global level, show sensitivity to sustainable development and enriching encounters, among which we can identify segments such as solos, MICE, foodies, to name a few.

  • Do you see creative tourism as complementary to other existing segments in your destination?

Of course, creative tourism finds its place in the sectors which make our territory attractive and in the sectors that we wish to develop elsewhere. Our creative tourism offers are therefore classified according to their nature into three categories:
– Wine and gastronomy
– Nature, well-being, and landscapes
– Art & culture

  • More generally, do you see creative tourism as a tool for sustainable development?

Effectively. The CRT, a regional institution, relies, among others, on “Creative/ cultural tourism” to define “new tourism” and the polymorphic concept which testifies to this desire to live your holidays differently. As of January 2020, Perpignan Méditerranée Tourisme was also committed to a Green Passport initiative. Creative tourism reinforces this positioning and we are happy to have been pioneers in these initiatives in perfect coherence with the regional strategy.

  • Perpignan-Méditerranée is part of the Creative Tourism Network®. What are the objectives of this networking?

The search for “top-ranking” no longer corresponds to a tourism sector that claims to be virtuous. In this sense, the traveler seeks to live creative and quality experiences in international destinations as different as they are complementary, such as Perpignan-Méditerranée, Loulé (Portugal), Recife (Brazil), Valparaíso (Chile), or the Magdalen Islands. (Quebec), members of the network. This, therefore, allows us to work with these destinations in order to exchange experiences and good practices, but also to create synergies thanks to the training, communication, and promotion services put in place by the Creative Tourism Network®.

Website:  Perpignan-Méditerranée Tourisme