Normandy wins ‘most desirable region’ for British tourists
Normandy has been named Europe’s ‘Most Desirable Region’ by a leading UK travel magazine.
And the British were again Normandy’s largest number of international visitors in 2022, after falling behind other nationalities by a few years.
The Normandy Tourist Board says it proves the naysayers wrong when they predicted Brits would not return after Brexit.
With 3.6 million overnight stays between 1 January 2022 and 3 November, UK visitors were up 71% year-on-year.
Britain’s ‘Greatest Travel Awards’
Tourist Office staff attended a ceremony at the Tower of London to accept a publicly voted prize at the Wanderlust Travel Awards.
Ben Collier, the Tourist Board’s marketing director for English-speaking areas, said the prizes were the UK’s “biggest travel prizes”.
He said: “50,000 people voted, many of them readers of the magazine, and we got people to vote too through our social media channels – we are the only French region to have four social media platforms in English .
“It was very special for us that the award ceremony was held in the Tower of London because it was built by William the Conqueror [Duke of Normandy].
Read more: 1,000 Years of Travel: Meandering History of the French Bayeux Tapestry
“We knew readers loved Normandy because a few months ago our most famous monument, Mont-Saint-Michel, featured on the magazine cover and they told us it was their best-selling issue of the year.
“We are thrilled to have received the award and to know that the British still love Normandy. We share a common history and friendship ties as neighbors.
“A few years ago people were like, ‘You won’t come back, things have changed’ but we believed in it and 2022 proved it.
“We are also optimistic about the future of ferry travel, so the future for the UK-Normandy relationship is looking bright.”
Brits want to venture outside of Paris
The Dutch, Germans and Belgians have been the top visitors since 2018.
“The British are back now. Lots of Brits get on the ferry which is great. There are a number of reasons for this: there was some chaos at UK airports over the summer and problems at Dover, so many people boarded the ferries in the south of England to go to Normandy instead.”
He added that many Britons who have already seen Paris are now interested in discovering other regions like Normandy. Others choose to combine a stay in the capital with a visit to Normandy due to its easy access.
“For example, you can visit Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny, just an hour’s drive from Paris.”
Younger visitors take the ferry
One trend is more young visitors, which was noticeable on the ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe.
“They tell me ‘we don’t want to fly anymore’ and they enjoy the experience. The crossing only takes four hours, but your vacation begins when you step aboard.
Read more: Brittany Ferries reports better year after ‘terrible’ Covid period
Read more: Eurostar: Calais remains closed after Brexit/Covid
“We also see a lot of people coming on bikes, which is another benefit of ferry travel.
“The Greenway from London to Paris [a dedicated off-road cycle route] runs through Dieppe so you can disembark the ferry and go straight to Paris. But there are also eight other great greenways in Normandy.
“Many Brits have also come to see the beautiful new British Normandy Memorial which has opened in Ver-sur-Mer and pay their respects for not being able to see it during the pandemic.
“It’s a new highlight and a symbol of the friendship and common history that we share.”
He added: “People like Normandy’s relaxed atmosphere, their café culture, the food and drink. They say it feels like a slower pace of life, they can take time out on the terraces to enjoy life and watch the world go by.”
Cooperation with Normandy ports on incoming border controls
Asked if he was concerned about the upcoming European entry/exit system, he said they are in contact with Normandy ports and were not overly concerned as the ports are well staffed with customs officials.
Read more: Passports, Etias, EES: European border control changes in 2023
“There will likely be a transition period and some delays initially, like the first Brexit, but things will turn out well.”
Mr Collier said the main issue regarding Brexit was the fact that second home owners cannot stay visa-free for more than 90 days in 180.
“Apart from that, not much changes for visitors who come for a few days or weeks.
“There were slightly longer queues on either side of the ferry but we didn’t hear anyone say it was a big problem for them.
“There’s no international airport here in Normandy – it’s slow travel, so people are used to taking their time.”
Le Havre and Dunkirk are hosting the 2025 Tall Ships Races
Sea level rise is provoking migration from the north French coast
Man investigates Normandy murder but no body or missing person