More and more companies, craft and industrial, play the card of transparency, in particular to retain the public.
Biscuit factory, umbrella factory, automobile factory, shipyards … More and more companies, craft and industrial, are opening their doors to the public. “The arrival in the political debate of economic patriotism and the suspicion around the agro-food industry, with business multiplying, forced companies, especially large ones, to bring people to see them themselves ”, analyzes Cécile Pierre, General Delegate of Enterprise and Discovery.
Founded six years ago, this association brings together 500 members out of the 2,000 companies converted to industrial tourism. A drop in the bucket compared to the 138,000 SMEs listed by INSEE. “We are in the infancy, but we have permanent calls from interested companies. A tourism industry is being structured, ”says Cécile Pierre. Ministries of Culture or the Economy, professional federations and pioneering companies such as EDF and Terre de Sel in Guérande (Loire-Atlantique) are involved to “better communicate and enhance the territories,” she continues. Witness the creation of a dedicated Backpacker (read opposite).
Target foreign tourists
Before launching, the company must plan an investment of € 5,000 to € 1 million, depending on its size: purchase of equipment to create a route, training of an experienced employee who will don the guide costume … Others, like Airbus, prefer to subcontract the organization of these visits to specialists like Manatour, “one of the French leaders in tourism for economic discovery”, it is written on its website.
In addition to buying chocolates after a visit to a chocolate factory, corporate tourism rhymes, in the long term, with economic benefits. “The loyalty rate is 60%. In other words, we will regularly buy Brioche Pasquier products and not from another brand because we saw behind the scenes at one of its sites, ”she illustrates.
With 13 million visitors per year, France is at the forefront of this niche tourism. “In Spain, in Portugal, in Italy, there is no association, the offers are more dispersed,” she observes. But with only 10% of foreign visitors, the sector can do better. “This complementary activity makes it possible to create new products far from the beaten tracks like Paris and the French Riviera, and therefore to lengthen the duration of the stay,” explains the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The government’s objective is to attract 100 million foreign tourists per year by 2020, compared to 89 million in 2017.
The Beaufortain cooperative makes it all a cheese
Located in Beaufort-sur-Doron, in Savoie, the Beaufortain dairy cooperative, the leading producer of Beaufort, has opened its doors to the public since 1972. The opportunity for it to develop direct sales and the notoriety of this French specialty. For four decades, 60,000 annual visitors have watched from the first floor of the cooperative people work in the manufacturing room located on the ground floor, admiring and then feeling the 30,000 grindstones displayed in one of the 41 cellars of refining. “However, this lacked explanatory content,” said Caroline Agnellet, the cooperative’s communications advisor. Not to mention that people sometimes left via the emergency exits with a 40 kg Beaufort wheel under their arms … ”
A true multisensory interpretation center
In 2012, the cooperative was given a facelift and invested € 2 million, half of which just for scenography. “It is no longer a tour but a real multisensory interpretation center”, describes the communicator, with audio testimonials, materials to touch, models and smells. The visit now starts from the 2nd floor, with a marking on the ground, in direct diving on the manufacturing room, at the level of the tanks. Renneting, cutting, heating, racking … each of these stages is visible, in addition to the educational path. On the other hand, for certain phases such as brining (cooling of the cheeses before being immersed in a salt bath), a webcam allows you to watch the operations live, without being in the room. “Everything is done so that visitors can see everything,” adds Caroline Agnellet. This classic, free route can be deepened with the viewing of a documentary, “Au pays du Beaufort”, as well as a guided tour of the ripening cellars, where the millstones rest, with an employee of the cooperative.