What Makes a Country Attractive to Tourists? Here's What One of Our Students Found...
Maria Sharobaeva, a student in the Master’s Programme 'Cultural and Event Tourism Management', has just returned from her semester abroad at the University of Angers in France. Maria shared some of the results of her research work with us.
The exchange programme at the University of Angers in France was my second experience studying abroad. I studied in Belgium during my bachelor’s degree and really enjoyed it. I chose to go to France for two reasons: I wanted to learn more about French practices in the area of management and I was also interested in conducting research into the development of domestic tourism.
The purpose of my research was to identify foreign practices of development of domestic tourism that can be applied in the Russian Federation. Tourism in Russia is developing rapidly. In 2016, the number of international tourists was 31,7 million and outbound tourism numbers reached 22 million. Internal tourism is also increasing: in 2017, this sector overtook outbound tourism in terms of the number of travellers. Therefore, it makes sense for Russia to implement best practices from other countries in the development of domestic tourism.
France is definitely a country to learn from when it comes to tourism. Tourism is a powerful component of the French economy. Outbound, inbound and domestic tourism are very developed in France. In 2016, tourism constituted 7,1% of GDP of the country. In the same year, France welcomed 82,6 million foreign tourists, and 70% of the French population traveled abroad. The fact that 194,8 million French people travelled within France is also significant. While in France, I had the chance to conduct an analysis of tourism development and event activity in Angers, the town I was living in, and even conduct interviews with local tourism organizations.
Angers is an example of a French town that is a centre for domestic tourism. It is a medieval city which is situated between Nantes and Paris. Despite its small size (only 151 000 inhabitants), all kinds of tourism are very developed here: business, cultural, gastronomic, electronic, educational, ecological and festival.
I discovered that the French management system is interesting but not completely centralized. The structure is as follows: the Tourism Commission makes the laws regulating the development of tourism in France and provides strategy. Regions, departments and communes are responsible for development of their own tourist projects and for the promotion of their area. The tourist office is at the end of the chain, communicating directly with tourists and offering the final product.
There are also initiatives run by residents of the city (e.g. festivals, holidays, concerts). Residents sometimes also assist in the promotion of a tourist destination. This practice is extremely interesting and it could be useful in Russia, as it enables inhabitants to show the city 'from the inside'. This supports the modern trend of 'travelling like a local'. The next step of my research was statistical analysis of domestic tourism in Angers, which was conducted with the help of the marketing department of the local tourist office. Interestingly enough, the number of tourists from the French city of Rennes which is very near Angers is equal to the number of tourists from Lyon. This indicates effective marketing across the country. Moreover, there are five big festivals that are carried out in Angers which attract 20 000 to 250 000 visitors. Consequently, it is clear that the city has well-developed event, touristic and marketing activities which successfully promote their products.
I also carried out an interview with an employee of a local tourist office. This enabled me to define the method of event planning in Angers and to assess their international strategy. This is very important because, despite being rather far from the French borders and not being the largest city in the area, Angers has its own strategy. This includes a description of its advantages and resources, the strategy of tourism development and its promotion.
Currently, I am conducting expert interviews with the organizations which are engaged in tourist activity in Angers and in the formation of the city brand. At this stage, the purpose is to identify methods and practices used for promotion of the city as a tourist destination for domestic tourists.
I faced several difficulties over the course of my research, including the language barrier and lack of access to several key organizations. However, the results are nevertheless extremely interesting and can be useful in Russia. Our country boasts a wide variety of resources. All we need to do is to find the right tools and establish a theoretical foundation that will allow us to develop and to promote domestic tourism in the Russian Federation, quickly and effectively.