Why overseas tourism is not doing so badly

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The countdown has started two weeks before the start of the tourist season in the overseas departments


In Guadeloupe, the beaches and restaurants are desperately empty.


© Gillles Morel
In Guadeloupe, the beaches and restaurants are desperately empty.


TOURISM – The countdown has started two weeks before the start of the tourist season in the overseas departments The holidays of the Toussaint. Autumn, fading trees, gray skies, rain… If the period rarely raises enthusiasm in France, it is not the same throughout France. In the overseas territories, at the end of October, the high season begins. For The meeting, the Guadeloupe or the Martinique, these first post-return holidays generally rhyme with an influx of tourists from the metropolis. As proof, these destinations are at the top of the list of requests from tour operators.

At the top of the rankings

Professionals of tourism are unanimous, the French will choose France for All Saints’ Day. Finally for those who are going to leave. Traditionally devoted to family reunions, these vacations are also an opportunity for some to go and enjoy the sun and the beaches of distant lands. In 2020, the overseas departments are among the most popular destinations for the French. Guillaume Rostand, president of Liligo, reveals the figures for requests: “It’s unheard of, Saint-Denis de la Réunion is at the head of research. Pointe-à-Pitre and Fort-de-France occupy 4th and 5th places. »Only the Portuguese duo, Porto (2nd) and Lisbon (3rd), hold the dragee high for French destinations. Exit New York, Barcelona, ​​Rome and other Madrid.

Despite these flattering positions, tourism from overseas territories suffers like the rest of the world. “If these destinations are at the top of the rankings, it is above all by default. The entire Top 10 collapsed, some more than others, ”sighs Guillaume Rostand. According to this sector expert, for the period of All Saints, the destination New-York saw its number of online searches drop by 98%, for Barcelona, ​​it is -94%. With its -77%, Saint-Denis de la Réunion would seem almost “spared”.

Destinations that reassure

If the overseas departments are doing “less badly” than others, it is not without reason: “Even if they are sometimes far away, these destinations remain France. In this unstable health situation that we come to, it is more reassuring. »Thus, while the international flights have experienced a major brake from the first confinements, those linking France to the overseas departments were maintained, and still are.

Advantageous conditions are also attached to it. Attractive prices, initially, as witnessed by Guillaume Rostand: “On average in these destinations, prices have fallen. For Pointe-à-Pitre, it’s -14%, and for others, it can go down to -20 or -38%. “Especially since airlines now offer free Covid insurance. Air France, Air Caraïbes, Air Corsair or Air Austral all allow their travelers to benefit from postponements, reimbursements or comprehensive cover on these destinations.

Not all in the same boat

These flights, some destinations could take advantage of during the All Saints holidays to receive tourists from mainland France. This is the case in particular for Reunion Island and Mayotte. These two departments, currently classified in the alert zone, currently only require a negative RT-PCR test carried out within 72 hours before the flight, a declaration on honor and a tracing form. Saint-Denis de la Réunion currently enjoys good service since if the number of flights fell by 30% during confinement, it has been steadily increasing since then. If the level of attendance has fallen to a level that the Island had “not known for 15 years”, according to Susan Soba Director General of Reunion Island Tourism, the hopes of seeing tourists return thanks to the attractive prices and the “stable and controlled” health situation are great. Reunion, which offers large natural spaces, hopes to experience an “oxygen bubble” with the high season approaching.

The same is currently the case for Martinique. After experiencing an extraordinary drop in attendance during confinement (-97% in April), “the island of flowers” raised the bar in July and August. A representative of the Martinican Tourism Committee confided in placing a lot of hope for the All Saints’ Day holidays: “Everything has reopened, hotels, museums, bars and restaurants, in adequate sanitary conditions and we have already seen the return of visitors from the metropolis. They are reassured when they arrive here to see that between the tests and the measures applied everything is going well. “For the moment” only “in the alert zone, all the services of the department are open with the exception of discos. The three airlines that serve Martinique provide their rotations and a line departing from Roissy Charles de Gaulle will be open in mid-December.

Guadeloupe has its fingers crossed

Less than 200 kilometers as the crow flies from the Martinique coast, Guadeloupe lives for its part in a more complicated situation. The archipelago is classified as a Maximum Alert Zone, which means that arrivals are limited to people with a compelling reason. A blow for a department which welcomed nearly 1 million tourists in 2019, including 56% of French people from mainland France (figures from the Regional Council of Guadeloupe). If the region declares that “the situation is stabilizing”, regulars to bars still find wear closed and restaurants must close at midnight. A difficult situation for this tourist destination which has been growing steadily since 2014 and which the Region hopes to see evolve before the All Saints holidays.

In the hope of reviving tourism in these departments, the Government announced, during the 6th Interministerial Tourism Committee from this Monday, October 12, the implementation of a recovery plan. The countdown begins.

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