From November 1st, the “museum for peace” will now only be open during weekends and holidays. The health crisis has led to a sudden drop in attendance. The entire remembrance tourism sector is severely impacted.
After the All Saints’ Day holidays, the Caen Memorial will only open its doors on weekends, pending the end of the year celebrations when it will then return to “normal” functioning. “We lost half of our visitors, we lost 300,000 visitors“, explains the director of the Caen Memorial, Stéphane Grimaldi,”There was a little summer break but at the start of the school year it was suddenly interrupted. In September, we received barely 30% of the visitors that we should have received in normal times. In October, November, December, there is no one left. We will lose 60 to 70% of our visitors in the last months of the year.“The Falaise Memorial and the Arromanches 360 cinema, which depend on the same structure, will also drastically reduce their opening days.
The bridgehead of remembrance tourism in Normandy is far from being the only one affected. Thus, in Courseulles-sur-Mer, Nathalie Worthington, the director of the Juno Beach center considers that her museum “will end the year with 40,000 visitors and will have lost nearly 600,000 euros“. Last Wednesday, the main players in the sector met at the Caen Memorial to take stock.”The situation is not good, it is bad for everyone“, notes Stéphane Grimaldi,”At the Memorial, we had a very large treasury, built over the years to, moreover, be able to absorb a crisis. We have never had a crisis of this magnitude. Half of our cash has melted, burned.“
No English and Americans in 2021
If the “museum for peace” should “overcome“the crisis, for others,”to reach the mark“is going to be very difficult.”Many of us have little cash, they are small businesses“, explains Stéphane Grimaldi. And all the more so since the medium-term prospects are not very reassuring.”Our museums are empty, but what is most worrying today is next year: we do not have the stock of reservations that allows us to envisage a serene year 2021. We are all convinced that neither the Americans nor the British will come back next year.“
If this world is weakening, it is a ricochet disaster for the Normandy economy
However, the remembrance tourism sector is far from negligible in the region’s economy. “People do not know that Normandy is the first memorial region in Europe, in terms of attendance and visit“, says Stéphane Grimaldi,”It is a very important turnover, it is 7 to 8% of the Norman GDP. There are thousands of jobs, considerable investments that employ local artisans, who indirectly make restaurants, hotels and campsites work. If this world is weakening, it is a disaster by ricochet on the Norman economy.“And to call on all players in the sector to”a chain of solidarity“in the face of adversity.
Sustainable memory tourism
In Courseulles-sur-Mer, Nathalie Worthington also launches a call to the collective, a call for a reflection going beyond the only economic dimension, and sees in a way in this crisis, an opportunity to be seized. At the Juno Beach Center, “We said to ourselves that the Covid period made it possible to reflect on things that we had already started, namely a reflection on the link that there may be between memory and environmental questions.“The museum is therefore committed to a decarbonisation process and calls on its ‘colleagues’ to follow it.”We have to put our economic models back on the table, put everything back on the ground and try to see how we can all act together, have virtuous practices for the sustainable development of tourism.“
We are not just cash drawers, we are also here to have a reflection
For the director of the Juno Beach center, such an approach is not only conducive to dynamism and mobilization “in these gloomy times“but it also appears consistent in editorial terms.”It is obvious that in a world where ecological balances are not respected, we are not in a poor world. In all the museums in the historical area of the Battle of Normandy, we are people who reflect a little on these questions: through war, messages about peace are passed on. We are not just cash drawers, we are also here to have a reflection.“