The Mont-Saint-Michel is the latest major French attraction to bring in new regulations in an attempt to tackle overtourism.
It is France’s busiest tourist attraction outside Paris. The UNESCO World Heritage site pulls in around three million visitors per year, one-third of whom come during the summer holiday season.
As part of the new initiative, around 10% of the attraction’s parking spaces will be available to book online in advance, with discounts for those who arrive earlier or stay later.
The director of the project believes this will limit the flood of visitors that swamp streets of the site at midday, and allow an even spread of tourists.
“We want to guarantee a quality visit for our visitors, particularly on busy days,” said Hervé Bierjon, director of development at the site.
“For a long time, we've been recommending that visitors come earlier in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the midday slot.”
It is a novel method to combat overtourism, an issue more and more sites are facing in France.
The move comes as France tries to grapple with the problem of overtourism.
France is among the most visited countries in the world (full figures for 2022 are not available for France, but the country previously held the title from the UN World Tourism Organization on a number of occasions).
The strain of both international and domestic tourists, who tend to congregate around a few locations, is causing negative side effects in hyper-visited areas.
As a result, the government unveiled a plan earlier this year to help over-visited regions better manage the influx of tourists, and to preserve their natural heritage.
This year, the Calanques national park in the south of France initiated a tourist quota, with people needing to book online in advance to visit the site.
Early Bird discounts for drivers
From August 12 until the end of the month, 500 of the 4,000 parking spaces at Mont-Saint-Michel can be booked online in advance.
Those who do so will be able to benefit from a discounted parking rate of €17 if they reserve the spot before 10:00 or after 16:00.
Usually, this is the cost for only three hours of parking, but these advanced online bookers will be able to use the slot for as long as they want.
On top of this, those who arrive even earlier will see greater discounts.
For drivers who arrive before 10:00, they will save €4 on a three- to six-hour parking spot, and €8 on a full-day spot, meaning they will spend only €11 for a full day of parking.
“Depending on demand, we will adjust the number of spaces. If we get 100 a day, we'll need to step up our communications to publicise the scheme,” said Mr Bierjon.
“But if there are 1,000 a day, we'll adapt to offer a few more possibilities,” he added.
If planning a visit, you can reserve your ticket on the official site here.
Further experiments could follow
Whilst the initial experiment is only running for just over two weeks, the director expects a significant portion of the 25,000 daily drivers to take advantage of the scheme.
If the scheme is successful, the site plans to “extend the experiment in 2024, particularly during periods that we have already identified as being busy,” said Mr Bierjon.
“These include bank holiday weekends in the spring, All Saints' Day and 11 November,” he added.
The site is also using interactive road signs on the approaches to the site to warn drivers of congestion conditions on roads leading to, and in, the village itself.
A shuttle bus between the mainland and the village will also be employed to further limit congestion at peak hours.