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How can destinations entice visitors out of a capital city?

April 2021

Compiègne is just one hour from Paris, but what are the challenges in encouraging visitors to make the journey to enjoy its remarkable national forest and surroundings?

Our two Compiègne EXPERIENCE partners, L’Office National des Forêts and Agglomération de la Région de Compiègne, are improving visitor experiences and promoting the natural and cultural attractions in and around forest of Compiègne, which include a castle, museums and festivals. Here are their views.

What are the obstacles that prevent visitors from exploring places outside a large city - for example, making the one hour trip from Paris to Compiègne?

Destinations outside capital cities find it difficult to attract visitors because they lack visibility and don’t have a clear identity. Some also lack experiential offers that would differentiate themselves from competing destinations near cities like Paris.

What could help destinations attract more visitors?

It’s important to assess the training needs among tourism organisations in the area , and identify those that will be motivated to take up training opportunities in order to transform their tourist offer so that it is adapted to the new needs and expectations of visitors.

What experiences are you planning to entice people to Compiègne?

We’ll be capitalising on the region’s rich natural heritage to create new experiences, such as:

  • Forest bathing
  • Horse-riding
  • Treasure hunts
  • Dramatised tours on the themes of the Two Empires and the newly-restored Empress Arbor, a 750m-long Napoleonic walk-through tunnel made of ornate iron and covered in climbing plants
  • Developing the historic site of Saint-Pierre

The idea is to create an immersive historic centre, host a programme of festivals and events in the heart of the forest, and make a short video showing people what new experiences we have to offer, responding to what families, city-breakers and students are looking for.

How do you think COVID might change the sort of things people are looking for in future trips? Will visitors look for more nature-based experiences such as forest activities rather than big city life?

The COVID crisis has changed visitors' expectations in many ways: safety, connecting with other people and with nature; what tourists are looking for in terms of a change of scenery and new things to discover. Compiègne has many attractions that can meet these expectations, including:

  • A small, navigable city with exceptional cultural heritage
  • An ideal geographical position which favours short, last-minute stays
  • A wide range of outdoor activities: a national forest, vast areas of unspoilt nature, cycling, horse riding, walking, ponds, watersports and tree-top activities
  • Quality gastronomy
  • A variety of accommodation including gîtes, and hotels in towns, forest villages and the countryside

Which top three tips would you give any destination trying to entice tourists away from major cities?

  • Firstly, carry out an assessment of the attractiveness of a destination in terms of its appeal to visitors. Then work on improving customer journeys that will enable tourists to have a smooth and enjoyable trip. Think about how to meet the different expectations of distinct target groups by creating adapted offers that add value to their visit.
  • Capture the attention of potential visitors via inspirational content on digital platforms that show off the destination to its very best.
  • Consider transport and services on arrival - how will visitors get around if they arrive by train? Make accommodation providers aware of services that will make a visit easier and more comfortable, such as facilities for touring cyclists and horse-riders.