The Cotentin Peninsula – also known as the Cherbourg Peninsula - in the Normandy region of France will soon see its many tourism boards undergo a major restructuring in the next few months.
By June this year, 11 local tourism boards will have merged into one big entity and renamed Cotentin Tourist office making it, arguably, one of the most powerful tourism boards in the country with an annual budget of EUR four million. Out of this budget, up to EUR one million will be kept aside to promote Cotentin worldwide; of which India, Middle East and China will be important focus markets.
Speaking to Guillaume Hamel, the current Director of Cherbourg Tourism and top man in the running to head up the new entity, one gets the feeling that this change will breathe some new life into the French tourism industry.
Currently, France does not have a Ministry of Tourism despite it being the biggest tourist destination in the world.
“It is how it is and we’re still the top tourist destination in the world,” says Hamel. “But, having said that, there is a lot more we can do and once the new structure is in place, we hope to bring in more tourists to the Cotentin Peninsula and showcase the wild and untouched landscapes and beaches we have here.”
So far Normandy has mainly been promoted as a historical war destination focusing on the D-Day Landing beaches, war-cemeteries and World-War Museums. But Hamel wants to widen his pool of tourist attractions and include the preserved natural beauty of the peninsula with its protected heritage sites, middle-aged castles and unique food culture.
“Yes, Cotentin is undeniably steeped in amazing war history; there’s no doubt about that and we’re fiercely proud of it”, explains Hamel. “But it is just one aspect of what we have to offer. For example, we would like tourists to experience Cotentin’s famous Blue Lobster or oysters among other fresh seafood, thanks to one of the longest coastlines in France or Calvados – an apple brandy with apple sorbet that is to be had in the middle of one’s dinner. These are all experiences that you won’t get anywhere else in the world except here in Cotentin,” he adds.
Apart from being a gastronomical treat, tourists can also look forward to getting the chance to step inside an actual nuclear submarine at the Cite De La Mer – a maritime museum built to showcase Cherbourg’s nautical prowess. Hamel says he wants to put Cotentin back on the cruise map and promote the region as a hiking destination too.
“The cruise industry is getting bigger and bigger in Europe,” says Hamel. “Cherbourg-en-Cotentin has a long history since the 1900s when we were a transatlantic port. The port of Cherbourg used to receive almost 1000 calls a year, which works out to almost three ships a day going to various places in the world – New York, Buenos Aires, you name it. Currently, we have 65,000 passengers a year and 40 cruise calls. This is one of the main aspects we are going to work on. We also have a fantastic range of premium shore excursions available from Cherbourg on a cruise ship for the day,” he concludes.