The sand dunes of Gouville-sur-Mer in northern France are being destroyed by the ‘Instagram effect’, the local authority has said, as people flock to photograph the famous multicoloured beach huts.
There are almost 600 metres of dunes and rows of painted huts on the Manche beach. Considered to be part of the local heritage, the site attracts increasing numbers of visitors each year, who are drawn by the colourful cabins and expanse of landscape.
Jean-Pierre Legoubey, mayor in charge of the site, told France 3: “We can see that the site received a lot of visitors in 2022. People are making the most of post-Covid [freedom] and the weather, as mild temperatures make our site a lot more attractive.”
One visitor, Christelle, from Seine-Maritime, said: “We don’t have as many dunes…and these cabins are magnificent. They really give a sense of charm and happiness to the beach.”
Visitors a double-edged sword?
On the one hand, visitors boost the commune’s community, economy, and reputation.
But on the other hand, increased numbers of people searching for the perfect Instagram content are causing damage to the dunes, stopping vegetation from growing, and causing the sand to build up abnormally.
Ropes have been installed along the path to keep visitors from straying too far, and the commune has limited access to the cabins to protect the site. Visitors can only enter and exit from specified points, and a one-way system has been put in place. But these methods are not proving as effective as hoped.
Mr Legoubey said: “Look, there’s no more greenery at the edge of the cabins. This has to stop…our objective is to improve and strengthen these measures, to restrict wandering around the site faced with growing tourist numbers.”
Pride and protection
Mayor of Gouville-sur-Mer, François Legras, said that he does not want to stop visitors completely, but instead raise their awareness about how to protect the site.
He said: “We must explain the fragility of the area and the negative effects of this increase in visitors. We need to stop promoting the area too, for example with these posters that show the cabins, or adverts with the famous ‘Volkswagen Van Life’ campervan in front of the cabins.
“We have to raise awareness in the population, but also show an example by stopping these kinds of posters. Even though we are very proud of our multicoloured cabins.”