France is one of the most beautiful and historic countries on the planet. It is also the number one tourist destination, with almost 85 million people visiting the European destination in 2014. As a country with so much natural beauty to impress these visitors, it is perhaps surprising that at one time there was seemingly little taste for all things eco by the French administration.
Just a few years ago Pascal Languillon, founder of the French Ecotourism Association, commented;
“The French government has been very disappointing … not playing the proactive role that it should. To put it simply, there are very few specific government policies on tourism and the environment”
The Change has Begun
Much has changed since Languillon made that statement, although there is still a long way to go with French recognition of environmental issues and the importance of ecotourism. The change actually began back in 2003 when the National Sustainable Development Strategy first started to bring the issue of sustainable development into the public arena. Difficulties arose because the strategy was not always adhered to in a straightforward and honest manner.
The “Grenelle Environment Round Table” of 2007 was a further step along the road of environmental awareness, both for France and for Europe as a whole. Instigated by the then French President Nicholas Sarkozy, this conference led to the implementation of the “First Grenelle Act” which outlined improvements required in transport, energy, climate and biodiversity and also the governance around processes and improvements in these areas. In France the 201 decrees that are necessary to carry out the Grenelle Act are currently being implemented.
What does this Mean for Tourism?
As France embraces its responsibilities in the area of sustainable development, so ecotourism should climb higher up the agenda. In fact, in June 2014, ecotourism was listed as an area for concentration of efforts when Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius addressed a national conference on tourism, and spoke of France’s aim to increase tourist figures to 100 million.
Of course France is already included in many European eco tours and there are eco lodges springing up throughout the French countryside. For those visitors who want to be able to savour the delights of activities such as hiking, climbing and kayaking, there is even the temptation of land for sale. Buying land in France can be an excellent way of achieving the dream of a second home in the country.
If the French government continues to pay attention to ecotourism, and to sustainable development as a whole, then the countryside of France should continue to be a truly beautiful place to visit.