The Easter Holiday season was quieter than ever in the French city of Lourdes. If there is a tourist designation where effects of the pandemic were deeply felt is here. Lourdes is the second largest city in France after Paris in terms of hotel capacity, and tourism relies mainly on pilgrimages, mostly in groups, organized by specialized tour operators.
In 2019, we counted nearly two million overnight stays. This represents 77% of overnight stays in our department, with 63% of foreign customersMarie Etcheverry, Vice President of the Lourdes Tourist Office
Italians, Spaniards, Brits, among others, have been absent due to travel restrictions. Hoteliers, restaurant owners, coach operators, souvenir sellers, all have been severely affected. “In 2020, we had 90% of cancellations,” said Marie Etcheverry. “This is a huge loss of turnover and there has been a very strong impact on our seasonal workers. More than 2,000 people were suddenly unemployed.” .
More than ever, Lourdes wants to develop a new tourist strategy. In less than a year, the city has seen no less than nine ministers, including Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, the Secretary of State for Tourism, on several occasions. Via a specific recovery plan, support and recovery measures have been taken to avoid the collapse of the destination. The plan consists of 46 measures including a territorial support fund with 20 million euros.
A one-stop shop has been set up to assist local businesses in difficulty. To get through these difficult months and anticipate the long-awaited recovery, the entire Lourdes ecosystem has joined forces. The shrine has also had to innovate, digitizing some celebrations.
The shrine remains our foundation but we also have a very precious natural and environmental heritage, as well as a very beautiful historical and cultural heritage to enhanceMarie Etcheverry
Last July, Lourdes United, the first worldwide digital pilgrimage, brought together 80 million participants. Following the general trend, the city also hopes to take advantage of a summer full of local tourists, but this year attracting new visitor profiles by relying in particular on a summer program. A website will soon be dedicated to the Estivales de Lourdes.