The small French island of Brehat, a popular north coast tourist destination, is restricting the number of visitors this summer after seeing as much as 15 times its population arrive at its rocky shores in a single day.
Off the coast of Brittany, Brehat is joining numerous other sites around France pushing back against “overtourism” amid concerns over waste management and environmental protection.
The number of day visitors, who access the island via a 10-minute boat ride from the mainland, would be limited to a maximum of 4,700 between July 14 and August 25, Mayor Olivier Carre said in a decree issued this week.
The island, home to just 377 permanent residents, is part of the EU conservation network Natura 2000 that aims to promote biodiversity by protecting habitats of the most vulnerable species.
The idyllic landscape is a hotspot for tourists, with as many as 450,000 people visiting the island in one year, according to a study by the firm Littomatique.
In the spring and summer, the number of visitors can peak to nearly 6,000 in a single day.
“The commune is unable to handle the volume of waste” that increases 10-fold during the peak tourism months, said the mayor’s statement.
The influx is also eroding paths leading to the picturesque lighthouse on the island’s north and impacting protected areas.
The crowds are also a drag for the tourists themselves, resulting in a rapid decline in visitor satisfaction, according to one study by Ponant Islands Association (AIP).
– ‘Demarketing’ –
The France Tourism Alliance noted earlier this year that 80 percent of tourists flock to just 20 percent of territory in the country.
The Paris tourism office projects upward of 37 million visitors to the capital alone this year, nearly matching pre-pandemic levels.
The first quarter of this year saw volumes near that of 2019, while spending exceeding 2019 figures, it announced Wednesday.
The France Tourism Alliance has recommended tourism operators promote less popular sites to disperse the crowds, along with the adoption of techniques such as daily quotas at sites, scheduled ticketing and higher tariffs.
“Demarketing” campaigns — advertising images of overcrowded sites to make them seem less appealing — were successfully adopted by seaside Marseille in 2021 and Corsica’s Porto-Vecchio in 2022 to reduce the influx.
More recently, the Calanques national park near Marseille announced it would maintain a reservation system for visiting the Sugiton coves that was first implemented during the Covid-19 pandemic.
With travel at the time limited, the rocky trails along the crystalline Mediterranean water saw an influx of tourists to as many as 2,500 per day, trampling the lush vegetation.
The reservation system, which cost 100,000 euros to implement according to park director Gaelle Berthaud, ensures just 400 people can visit the site on a given day.
The national park on the Porquerolles island off France’s southeast coast has for three summers limited daily visitors to 6,000 in a similar effort to protect the landscape. — Agence France-Presse