Marseille officials want to stop tourist promotion to limit crowds

The tourist office however says it has put anti-crowding measures in place

22 April 2021
Marseille vieux port. Marseille officials want to stop tourist promotion to limit crowds

Officials fear Marseille could be overrun with tourists this summer as France comes out of lockdown Pic: Christophe.Finot / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

By Hannah Thompson

Marseille officials are calling for less tourism promotion this year, prompting a row with the city’s tourist office, amid fears that the Mediterranean destination could be overrun with visitors this summer.

Local officials have registered their “profound disagreement” at plans for a €1m tourism office publicity push for the city, and said they fear “too many visitors” as the country comes out of lockdown.

Read more: CONFIRMED: End of lockdown in France set for May 3

Officials are calling for less promotion and more resources for the tourists who already visit.

Deputy mayor for sustainable tourism, Laurent Lhardit, said this week: “We must increase the resources devoted to welcoming tourists and reduce those devoted to promoting the city.”

He said that he regretted the decision by the tourism office l'Office Métropolitain du Tourisme (OMT) to dedicate “more than €1 million to publicity operations [for the city] or for events”.

He added: “This isn’t about limiting access to Marseille but about increasing the number of places that welcome tourists.”

He estimated that the city needed “around 100” tourism agents to be recruited and trained, to deal with existing demand.

Mr Lhardit said that the city feared it would see even more visitors this year than last summer, when the city saw increased French tourism because the Covid-19 pandemic prevented people from travelling abroad.

He said that the city was hoping to put people off from visiting the city centre and the calanques national park and calanques bays, and that these “hot points needed to be cooled down”.

But OMT president Marc Thepot responded to the criticism, telling the AFP: “The Office’s strategy is only aiming to promote Marseille as a destination at the ‘edges’ of the [summer] season, especially in the month of September.”

Mr Thepot said the tourism office had put plans in place to ease overcrowding of tourists in the months of July and August, such as “alternative walking routes through the town, to avoid the infamously-busy sites of Notre-Dame de la Garde and Les Goudes".

Marseille authorities are now set to launch a project named “the Marseillais summer”, to lay out the ways in which the city is planning to manage the influx of seasonal tourists.

Since January 1, the OMT has been managed by the métropole of Aix-Marseille-Provence, and not the city of Marseille. 

Yet, Mr Lhardit insisted that “it is still the city that remains the organising authority of the Marseille tourist season”.

The calanques national park authorities have themselves begun a “de-marketing” campaign to encourage tourists to visit other national areas of beauty instead.

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