Marketing Quality Rural Tourism
LEADER I and tourism: some examples
Rural tourism and integrated development: experience of the "Cathar Country" group
document type: case study
keywords: tourism, methodology, heritage
source: LEADER technical dossier
While a rich cultural heritage is a very useful
ingredient for successful rural tourism, it is not enough.
The LEADER group "Pays Cathare" ("Cathar
Country") has grasped the fact that an efficient
marketing strategy is also indispensable.
1. The "Cathar Country" Group: an example of
a communication plan for a cultural tourism project
a. Upstream: choosing the right image
* The entire communication policy and subsequently, the
tourism development and promotion policy, is based on a
single theme where history and the imagination mingle: the
The Cathar epoch in the 13th century was both a
religious and political movement which ran like wildfire
through the South of France and inflamed the County of
Toulouse against the King of France. The bloody repression by
the crusade of the Albigenses still marks the collective
Provençal memory. The Cathar country was the last
sanctuary of this movement which left a strong imprint on the
area's villages, châteaux and history.
* The choice of this image guides the communication
policy towards the current interest in cultural tourism
focusing on history and heritage. It is based on a marketing
- external dynamics of the image - A survey on the renown
of the Cathar Country theme in France and abroad and a study
of visitor rates of Catharist sites (700,000 visitors per
annum) confirmed that the right choice had been made.
- internal dynamics of the image - The Cathar phenomenon,
a symbol of Provençal independence, still strikes a
chord in the local imagination which has been strengthened by
cultural activities run in recent years.
The medieval festivities of Villerouge-Termenés
where the village people stage and act out the history of the
burning at the stake of Bélibaste, the last
"Perfect Cathar", are one such example of this
re-appropriation of history.
b. Highly comprehensive local communication plan
promoting the image
This communication plan is characterised by:
* legal protection of the name,
* production of graphic tools, logo and graphic
* a very detailed signposting plan of Cathar sites and
monuments in order to optimise visitor numbers,
* publication of guides for the general public and of
* interactive tourist information terminals,
* a media plan (written and electronic press).
c. Creation and marketing strategy for tourism
The organisation "Amistad",
which acts as an incubator for tourism products, combines theforces of tourism promoters and specialists in Catharism. Its
task is to create and develop cultural products on the Cathar
Country theme. For the village of Villerouge, this takes the
form of discovery what daily life was like in medieval times:
gastronomy, smallholding, plants. The village of Puivert is
organised around a centre of medieval music. The mining
sector and the trade in metals are set off around the
The communication policy is the main direct marketing
tool for these products. They are also proposed in the form
of package holidays to tour operators.
This is because although communication is the strong
point of the "Cathar Country", it is not sufficient
to win it significant market shares on the tourism market
without recourse to the large-scale distributors.
In light of the scale of the project and its quality,
direct promotion will have to be teamed up with partners in
mass distribution for these cultural tourism products.
2. The Cathar Country: a method for developing tourism
on the basis of heritage exploitation
* The policy aiming at the development of tourism is
targeted entirely on the Cathar Country image and revolves
around a network of 8 focal sites, for each of which a
specific theme has been selected, raising their individual
force of attraction. They connect up with one another through
a sophisticated sign-posting system, enabling tourists to
spend more time in the area while following a cultural
* Each focal site is designed as a cultural venture with
the aim of obtaining a maximum amount of induced economic
activity from the site.
For example: after visiting the Puivert Château,
tourists are invited by signposting to discover in the
village the museum of medieval music and, in its immediate
surroundings, traditional craft shops, marked footpaths, inns
* The work on these focal sites is accompanied by
programmes for the architectural improvement of the villages
and for the creation of hotels with character, giving overall
consistency and making the Cathar Country a real
Landscaping plans are also part of this very meticulous
3. An Example of the Integration of Tourism into the
* The Cathar Country does not let itself be deceived by
the illusion that tourism alone can provide the answer.
Tourism forms part of an overall strategy for the
promotion of an area and its different activities, with
the search for a maximum of induced effects.
* The programme of development around the 8 focal sites
is accompanied by a set of measures to stimulate SMEs, the
craft industry and proximity services and a plan to
exploit agricultural and forestry products:
- development of a wide range of "Cathar
Country" farm products,
- implementation of a training programme for tourist
guides and couriers,
- exchange for the public contracts generated by
- Minitel job exchange,
- promotion outside the area of the know-how of Cathar
Country companies in the restoration of the heritage and
- wide-ranging training plan for all the economic
operators involved: business creators, people working in the
tourism business, group couriers.
* This strategy is accompanied by economic
indicators monitoring the programme
The projected results are:
-increase in visitor rate by 160,000 people per annum
(currently 640,000 visitors), representing a forecast
additional turnover of 24,000,000 FRF (150 FRF: daily
estimated expenditure of one visitor)
-increase of potential tourism accommodation by 240 beds
(100 in hotels, 140 in approved cottages), generating
additional turnover of 8,400,000 FRF (250 FRF: daily
estimated expenditure of a person staying overnight)
-guaranteeing of 300 to 500 varied jobs in the Tourism
sector and at least as many induced jobs in other sectors,
i.e. in all between 600 and 1,000 jobs.
The partners in the project are however very aware that
everything hinges on the ability of the local action group to
mobilise human resources, whose level remains low
(population density of 14 inhabitants per km², 37% of
the population aged over 60).