Normandy resort braces for tourist rush after TV vote

Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue was named Village Préféré des Français by viewers of the France 3 TV series this year

26 August 2019
By Jane Hanks and Emily Jones

A Normandy town is bracing itself for a significant rise in the number of visitors since being voted France’s Favourite Village by the popular France 3 Television programme.

Every year, TV presenter Stéphane Bern visits and films 14 villages in France, with each being given seven minutes of screen time to showcase why they should win the title Village Préféré des Français.

This year, hundreds of thousands of viewers voted for Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue via SMS, phone calls and on Facebook.

The accolade is by no means a meaningless one.

The resulting publicity always brings in more tourists to the winning village, as the show has a dedicated following, with 2.5million viewers regularly tuning in this year.

Cassel, Nord, won in 2018. Céline Deberdt, from the Tourist Office there, said they saw an overall rise of 114% in one year. “The effect was immediate and people begin ringing us as soon as the result was announced. In the following few days there were far more camping cars than usual and over the weeks every aspect of tourism saw a rise in numbers.

“It has continued this year and is very welcome.”

Eguiseheim, Alsace, won in 2013, and still benefits today. A spokesperson for their tourist office said they saw a 40% rise in the number of visitors in 2013 and 2014 and though the increase started to diminish from 2016 onwards, the numbers remain higher than before the award.

The French led the way boosting visitor numbers dramatically, but later more came from abroad, as Eguisheim featured in overseas media reports and was introduced in tourist guides where it had not been mentioned previously.

The tourist office at Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue said they saw more campervans in July, but expect the real impact to take effect in the early autumn and next year, as the award announced in June does not allow people who have already booked holidays for July and August to change plans.

The coastal village won over viewers with its attractive marina and fishing port - which is a world heritage UNESCO site - its twin 17th century Vauban defence towers, ornithological reserve and rich history.

It is already a popular tourist site and mayor Jean LePetit said the villagers felt, “a lot of pride in the recognition of the place where they live and what it is valued for,” on the day of the live final when the result was announced.

He added: “It touched everyone, the youngest and the oldest, the people who live here now as well as those who are Saint-Vaast at heart but who have had to move away for family or to work.”

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