The Center for Advance Research on Language Acquisition defines culture as “the shared patterns of behaviors and interactions, cognitive constructs, and affective understanding that are learned through a process of socialization. These shared patterns identify the members of a culture group while also distinguishing those of another group.”
In this sense, culture covers almost all aspects of our daily life. It encompasses our customs, daily food, dressing style and aesthetic appreciation.
Hence, culture has a sustainable and significant impact on the development of a region. In social perspective as the rate of fertility, the degree of education reflects the impact of culture. In economy perspective, the mode of production and pillar industries are also influenced by regional culture. Culture is an invisible force which can sometimes enhance the influence of the other visible force like political, economic or military forces of a country.
Culture is an increasingly relevant asset for cities to acquire an international status and is a core element of a urban regeneration process. In this regard, the deindustrialisation process in some European cities such as Glasgow, Liverpool, Essen or Bilbao, has showed the relevance of culture for its positive social and economic impact. As Garcia claims (2008), these cities have experienced an increase in tourism, growth, investment, citizen engagement and participation. The cultural dimension of a place reinforces its attractiveness.
From culture of business to business of culture
According to the online Business Dictionary (2018), a business is “an organization or economic system where goods and services are exchanged for one another or for money. Every business requires some form of investment and enough customers to whom its output can be sold on a consistent basis in order to make a profit. Nevertheless, businesses can be not-for-profit, privately or state-owned.” According to Schlais and Davis highlight (2011), these goods are not always legal, they can be illegal; they are not necessarily needed, but only object of a desire.
The relation between culture and business evolves with society. Referring to the expansion of the cultural arena in the 1970’, with the development of leisure activities, games, music, books, magazines, radio and television, McLuhan (1973) stated “We are swiftly moving at present from an era when business was our culture into an era where culture will be our business”. This 45-year-old statement already took into consideration the effects of new technologies and digital transition on culture and entertainment. The phenomenon has acquired such a scope that a new market for cultural products has grown and the cultural industry has been thriving for decades and is still in constant development. Culture not only defines us, it sells (Lampel, Shamsie and Lant, 2005). Hence, any cultural product is market-driven and a competitive cultural offer needs some characteristics which provide satisfaction to consumers. That is why it is crucial to identify the aspects of a cultural value proposition which are likely to generate profit, which means considerations such as tradition or modernity both in the content and in the materialization.
Relation between culture and tourism: cultural tourism
Since its beginning, tourism activity has been closely related to the destination´s culture. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), as well as other international and national associations dedicated to study and analyse tourism, have classified cultural tourism as one of the main typologies in which tourism can be divided. It can be defined as a tourism activity which relies on local cultural manifestations, such as art, folklore and traditions, in order to attract a demand that is willing to learn and establish relationships with sociocultural characteristics different from theirs (Smith, 1992, Mousavi et al, 2016). According to Richards (1996), cultural tourism can be also defined as “the movement of persons to cultural attractions away from their normal place of residence, with the intention to gather new information and experiences to satisfy their cultural needs”.
Cultural tourism has continuously evolved during the last two decades, up to the point of becoming the second reason for people to choose a destination, only after “sun and sand” tourism. According to the last annual report on international tourism by the UNWTO (2017), based on data from the previous year, Europe is again the main cultural destination in the world, with cities such as Paris, Rome, Berlin and Barcelona as the main receptors.
Regarding the pillars on which cultural tourism relies, Terry (2018) states that there are two key elements without which cultural tourism development would be impossible. On one side, local culture itself, including all its manifestations and referred to the uniqueness and authenticity of it. On the other side, cultural heritage which includes natural and cultural heritage that, at the same, can be divided into tangible and intangible (UNESCO, 2017). Only through the combination of these elements, well-managed by tourism managers, will be possible to position a city, region or country as a cultural destination, and will be able to attract tourist searching for enriching cultural experiences (Dewi and Wijayanti, 2016). And as the World Tourism Organization of the United Nations (UNWTO) reported in 2017, “tourism matters”. Indeed, it is responsible for 10% of the GDP creates one in every ten jobs worldwide (direct, indirect and induced).
The Branding of Cities
Cities, like products, require certain characteristics to be attractive and “live-able”, developing thus their own brand. The most successful branded cities have offered good conditions related to employment, housing, transportation, and cultural activities. Word-of-mouth, public relations and even advertising can contribute to communicating a city’s brand and making it attractive to individuals. According to Julia Winfield on her report about city branding, a good city brand must be able to call travelers, industries and population itself: it should not only be about tourism. Globalization has contributed to the competition between cities to entice people, as mobility and interest in life quality increases. Thus, creating a city brand should work like marketing for global corporations, meaning that defining a target market and developing loyalty are the key to a successful branding (Winfield, 2005).
According to Lucarelli (2012), three types of cultural elements are essential for city branding. They are following: history and heritage (including narratives, stories, legends and anniversaries), artefacts and spatial planning (such as architecture, museums and design), and events and activities (like festivals, sports and other kind of events). These elements will be given a strong importance in this report, as well as the distinctive local cultural resources of the studied city, Boulogne-sur-Mer, because as Bianchini and Ghilardi (2007) argue, a successful place branding requires the previous knowledge and awareness of its culture.
City branding is, of course, a far more complex process than creating a product brand. It requires a strong sense of engagement between governments and citizens, as well as constant communication, motivation, and trust. Some options for city branding that have been already developed include events such as Olympics or Football World Cups, architecture, themed years and economy based on knowledge or sustainability (Puig, 2009). Now, a series of examples will be exposed representing successfully city branding, which were used to define the objectives and scope of this project.
Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Scotland)
Edinburgh, capital city of Scotland, is well-known worldwide by their annual festivals which gather thousands of people for days. One of the most significant is the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, started in 1947 with the aim of leaving the recent past years of the Second World War aside. It was created with the purpose of celebrating the European enriching culture and boosting creativity and innovative arts and scenes all over the continent. For decades, the Fringe –as it is usually named- gave the opportunity to unknown artists to illustrate people with their art techniques, no matter the style, and the city became the center of European liberal arts and venue for anyone with a story to tell.
Regarding the organization and display, for three weeks in August, the city is equipped with stages all over the streets to show every type of performance targeted to different audiences, from concerts to arts exhibitions and circus. To further highlight the importance of this festival, it is fair to say that, according to the official annual report, last year Edinburgh gathered more than 54.000 performances during the three weeks The Fringe lasts, reaching the number of visitors to almost 3 million people.
The impacts that this kind of events could have in a city are normally very positive in several senses. In words of Phil Redmond, co-founder of the Institute of Cultural Capital, “a big scale event gives those involved a “badge of authority” to do things differently, to challenge the status quo – and to implement creative, unconventional ideas. It’s a credibility that empowers people in a city to collaborate, to bring about cultural change.” It is also claimed that, despite the budget cuts for cultural events as consequence of the financial crisis of 2008, festivals such as this lead the way to ordinary people in order to perform instead of requiring internationally, well-known artists. This has as a result a considerable increase in the incomes for the city, which can be used by the administration to improve public services or make profitable investments.
Kakube Festival (Nandom, Ghana)
The Kakube Festival takes places in the city of Nandom, Ghana, during last week of November or first of December. The festival has a strong cultural, traditional background, being its main goal “to show gratitude to God and family gods for a good harvest during the farming period, and to ask for their continuous blessings and protection for a safe environment, rich soil and rain in the coming farming season”, as it describes the official news agency in Ghana, GNA.
During the festival, which lasts an entire week, different artistic performances are held, from a display of local dances and music to gastronomy and culinary traditions. Besides, it also has a political meaning since the participants ask their leaders and country elites in Accra, the capital city, to take their requests into consideration in order to improve infrastructures and public services such as health care and education. In general, it tries to combine a promotion of local cultural awareness with an economic demand which can lead to an improvement in life quality of the 80.000 inhabitants in Nandom (Lentz, 2001).
To sum up, Kakube Festival provides people of the traditional area in which it takes place with three main different outcomes. First, politically, it gives them the opportunity to be heard by politicians all over the country, as it is the main event in Ghana before Christmas and all eyes are put on it for a week. Secondly, it has a great economic importance, as it attracts not only local, indigenous people, but also tourists from other parts of Africa and lately, from Europe. This leads to an increase in consumption of goods and services which generates important incomes for the city. Finally, the main point of this festival relies on the cultural and social reality of the area. Proudly, locals show their essence regarding to their values and traditions, which makes the event an extraordinary way of maintaining their authentic culture alive (Abanga, Adongo, & Kuuder, 2012).
Mardi Gras (New Orleans)
Mardi Gras, also known in English as Fat Tuesday, is historically a religious festivity that takes place the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. It has its origins in medieval France and Italy, even if today the main festival, known worldwide, is held in New Orleans, Louisiana. As an historic French colony, the city of New Orleans started to celebrate it in the 18th century the last day before the period of Lent began, according to Catholic tradition.
According to its own webpage, “Mardi Gras is about music, parades, picnics, floats and excitement”. Children and elderly people, locals and visitors, all gather together in order to march, eat traditional food, wear costumes and throw balls to the sky, among other activities. In fact, the celebration has become one of the most attended festivities in Southern United States, making of New Orleans an important touristic destination where culture and art are exposed throughout the whole city, which has contributed to local development and urban revitalization (Gotham, 2002).
Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that this festival would not be possible without a combination of two main factors: local heritage and globalization. The Mardi Gras in New Orleans started as a local, religious festival with no intention of becoming what it is today. However, some changes came, and as consequence of technological development, tourism expansion and globalization, the event found an opportunity to attract visitors, which led to increasing incomes and, finally, to contribute to urban and local development. To sum up, it is the concept of “glocalization”, a mixture between globalization and local traditions, which makes possible that traditional, cultural events such as the Mardi Gras in New Orleans are attracting the attention of great amounts of people who travel there just to experience a heritage that, though it is not theirs, they enjoy as if it were. Furthermore, these visitors leave economic resources in the city, which make it a profitable event for both sides (Gotham, 2005).
Cultural offers classification
In the following section, a classification of cultural offers focused on urban cultural destinations will be exposed.
The urban cultural appeal matrix (Kolotouchkina and Seisdedos, 2015)
The cultural offer can naturally take diverse forms. It can be related to the place’s design, heritage, behaviour or consumption. An interesting classification has been elaborated by Kolotouchkina and Seisdedos (2015), in which the destination is evaluated according to its possession of “hard” or “soft” cultural assets and their “local” or “global” nature. As one can read in the figure below, “hard” variables relate to consumption and economic transaction through the purchase of tangible goods, whereas “soft” variables relate to intangible experience, such as street-life and visits to museums and spectacles. Regarding the other axis of what they call the urban cultural appeal, the “local” nature of the place is based on its idiosyncrasy, its customs and traditions, such as popular events, traditional food and artisan shops. On the other hand, the “global” nature of the place is characterized by the display of international references, like local performances of music stars or local stores of global fashion brands. According to its assets, either hard or soft, local or global, a city can choose to position itself on one or several of these quadrants, qualifying four city profiles: “authentic promitive urban”, “urban commodity”, “global character urban” and “cultural hub urban”, as indicated in the matrix. This matrix can be found later in this report (page x), as it is used and applied to the city of Boulogne-sur-Mer.
Urban travellers, both male and female from various nationalities, were asked about their favourite leisure activites when they visit a city (Kolotouchhina and Seisdedos, 2015). The assessment can be found on the following graph, going from the less important – 1 – to the most important – 5 –. It can be concluded that the discovery of architectural and historical heritage through exhibitions and cultural events is among the prefered activities. The second significant aspect is related to gastronomy and interaction. These expectations are taken into account in this report’s project.
Source: Kolotouchhina and Seisdedos (2015)
From now on, the theoretical framework will be focused on the three main elements on which the project will rely. These are music, gastronomy and art. Their contribution to the social and economic development of a city, as well as their potential in order to position it as an international cultural tourism destination, will be exposed.
Music Festivals and Their Contribution to Cosmopolitanism
Music has always been an important part of a country’s cultural identity, and it is increasingly being regarded as an opportunity to communicate and raise a region’s attractiveness. In a report published by the European Commission (2011), the concept of cosmopolitanism refers to capitalizing the positive attitude towards identity based on curiosity and integration, and music is, without a doubt, considered an essential element on the creation of participatory experiences that reinforce social and cultural ideals.
To further demonstrate the importance of this kind of events, during 2012, only in France there were a total of 98 music festivals of different genres (UNESCO, 2015). It can be considered the Belfort Eurockéenes music festival in France as a perfect case of revamping an area through a new event that is now a tradition in the region.
With its first edition organized in 1989 in an effort to make the town of Belfort known to the world, this festival became one of the first events in France to offer a multiple-day festival in an open natural area. Because it is arranged by a non-profit, their commitment to social responsibility became a crucial factor for its success, increasing their fundraising capacity to cover the needed budget (Gautier, 2015). On its latest editions, the festival has reached an approximate of 130,000 attendees from all around Europe to the event, running for 4 days straight and presenting around 70 different musical numbers. Eurockéennes is now recognized for its strong focus on environmental protection and sustainable development, deserving various certifications on this subject (Territoire de Musiques, 2018).
Festivals as pointers in a cultural map
Similar to the Eurockéennes Music Festival, the Umbria Jazz Festival has forever marked the small city of Perugia, in Italy, as the core for jazz culture without interfering with the daily life of the inhabitants of the town. This event, which takes place every July and lasts about 10 days, brings together highly renowned artists as well as music students from all over the world, striving to develop both the social and cultural aspects of the city (European Commission, 2011).
The participative experience of festivals
The sharing of musical tastes through concerts has become one of the most authentic forms of interacting with people from local and international communities. The Sonar Festival in Barcelona, for instance, aims to attract young people from all over the world (reaching 80,000 festivalgoers in 2011) via the common language of music. They propose two different venues with a unique artist offer each, allowing a more relaxed and intimate atmosphere during the day at the city center and a passionate and powerful experience during the night on a huge open space (European Commission, 2011).
Cultural diversity as a pillar for international festivals
Proposing a full-cultural experience, with not just music but also food and workshops, and open to generally unattended by festivals crowds, families and children for instance, WOMAD festival in Spain has become an icon of multiculturalism. Their offer includes interactions with artists from China, UK, France, Cameroon, being regarded as a launching stage for their careers. It works with several NGOs to create a frame of values in which to reflect the ideology of its founders: prove the “stupidity of racism” (European Commission, 2011).
Gastronomy’s Impact on Tourism and Local Economy
The tourism sector can be divided in different typologies. Even though many authors have expressed different opinions regarding how tourism should be classified, nowadays the official classification is the one given by the World Tourism Organization (WTO). Among all categories, it is possible to find what they call gastronomic or culinary tourism within a greater category, cultural tourism. Long (2013), in its book “Culinary tourism”, defines this type of tourism as “the focus on food as an attraction for exploration and a destination for tourism”.
Reaching this point, it is also important to understand the motivations that push people to choose one destination among others. The most clear and accepted division of motivations is exposed by McIntosh, et al (1995), consisting in four main factors: physical motivations, cultural motivations, interpersonal motivations and status and prestige motivations. It is possible to place the role of gastronomy in the four of them. Regarding physical motivations, it goes without saying that eating plays an essential part in human-being´s physical life, in fact, travelling always implies eating. Secondly, every culture has its own gastronomic characteristics, up to the point of being one of the most relevant parts of a concrete culture, as is the case of region such as the Basque Country –northern Spain- or nations such as France or Italy. Concerning interpersonal motivations, Warde and Martens (2000) published a survey where it was shown that in the United Kingdom, people valorize with a higher grade the social side of eating out (95%) rather than the own quality of the food (94%). Finally, status and prestige motivations can be easily related to culinary tourism since the emergence of rankings specialized in meals and restaurants such as the French Michelin Guide or the British classification of the Best 50 Restaurants (Fields, 2002).
Now, it is important to respond to the main question of this topic. How can a country/region/town transform gastronomy from a touristic resource to a touristic product? In order to reach an answer, there are first few points that need to be clarified. On one side, as mentioned before, culinary tourism is often described as a part of cultural tourism. Even though gastronomy itself may not have the potential to attract thousands or even millions of visitors, if it is combined with other forms of cultural expositions, such as folklore, local way of life or traditions, it could become a really valuable asset which could mean the difference when choosing a destination (Novelli et al, 2005). Nevertheless, the capacity of gastronomy becoming a pull factor, in fact, a reason to travel to and visit a place, is determined by the effort put in promoting it. Some regions and countries are well-known by their cuisine and do not need to spend a great amount of money in publicizing their gastronomy, while others may need to advertise it in order to make it known. That can be done through different techniques, but mainly through advertising and events and festivals (Mascarennhas & Gândara, 2010). Some examples may be the following ones.
Food as a symbol of quality
In the northwest Spanish region of Galicia, known mainly by its high-quality seafood, an annual festival called PortAmérica is organized. The event combines music, local culture and gastronomy and it is advertised highlighting the guests that it expects. “30 chefs, 20 Michelin Stars and 10 Repsol Suns” is the main slogan that tries to put the emphasis on the virtuous and well-known guests who would make the event one of the most renowned culinary festivals in Spain. Besides, it also promotes local amateur chefs and local arts, which creates in the potential visitors the perception of a complete, authentic event. That is what many authors describe as an effective marketing strategy when promoting this type of festivals (Batinic, 2017).
Diversity expressed through culinary delights
Another example comes from Argentina, concretely from its capital city Buenos Aires. Every year, the city organizes the festival Caminos y Sabores (Roads and Flavors in Spanish), where people from all Argentinian regions gather in the country´s main city in order to promote and sell the local products collected during the year. This event focuses on the cultural diversity the country has and it tries to boost authenticity and regional identity by adding value in every step of the festival’s process. In addition, the festival uses technological devices as a way of helping visitors live a memorable experience through interaction with sellers, for instance giving every user an electronic bracelet which would serve as a guide for the whole event. Finally, it also tries to connect farmers, the main expositors, with new clients and markets through the creation of social and networking platforms where they can interact with potential customers, not only individuals but also companies.
Public administration: an enabler for gastronomic tourism
Finally, one of the best examples of an effectively managed and organized food and gastronomy event is Singapore’s World Gourmet Summit. Defined in its webpage as the “Asia’s most highly anticipated food and wine festival”, every April since 1997 thousands of people from around the world gather in the city-state of Singapore with the aim of tasting food and drinks from very different places. According to Horng and Tsai (2010), the success of the event relies not only on the corporate marketing the organization carries out, but also on the way that local government promotes the event. The power and resources that public administration has in order to reach some targets could be impossible to gain for some minor companies, which becomes governments strong allies when it is necessary to display an important campaign. Furthermore, this will in the end be beneficial for both parties. In a country where tourism is mainly based in the MICE sector –the acronym for Meetings, Incentives, Congress and Conferences and Exhibitions- the Singapore’s World Gourmet Summit tries to diversify that, giving tourists another reason to visit the city. This has not only positive economic consequences, but also helps to enhance country’s image outside by promoting local customs, food, traditions and culture (Chaney & Ryan, 2012).
Gastronomy as the perfect supplement to cultural expression
It is also worth mentioning that gastronomy may not be the principal object in a certain event, but it complements different forms of art and cultural manifestations by creating a sense of authenticity that could not be achieved without a culinary sense. Furthermore, it is indeed positive to include local products since promoting the own brand –no matter if it is a city, region or country- would always be beneficial in order to raise its consumption and, in the end, contribute to flourish local economy (Hall and Sharples, 2008). A useful example of this argument is the Kakube Festival in Ghana, which was mentioned before and that could be considered as a successful city branding case.
Art: Manifestation of Cultural Identity
Art can comprehend all kinds of manifestations and creations that inspire and motivate people to feel, think or act in different ways. Some examples of those manifestations of individual, cultural and group expressions are music, paintings, architecture, photography and dancing, among others. There are many art festivals going around in the world at the moment, ranging from festivals that unite and bring together different worldwide artists for exposing their creations, to festivals that propose spectacles and organized events as a statement of ideals, culture and traditions (Palacios, 2009).
Relating the business of culture to the art perspective, there are many examples in which art events, artistic buildings (architecture on itself, for example) and cultural artistic expressions have made a city, country or culture become well-known because of its quality. The fact that as a concept, art is subject to interpretation and appreciation from people from other nationalities, cultures and perspectives, states that art is not particular, but universal (Leguizamón, Moreno and Tibavizco, 2013).
Collecting the “best of the best”
An important characteristic about art exhibitions is that they focus in showing the best works of artists, including both local and international pieces. The Venice Biennial, which clearly achieves this objective, “is one of the oldest, largest and most prestigious contemporary art exhibitions in the world. Established in 1895, the Biennial is held every two years, and today is attended by more than 300,000 visitors. Often called the Olympics of the contemporary art world, this event is where countries send their most promising artists”, according to Yoo (2012)
Connecting countries and cultures through art
Another example worth mentioning is the Art Basel, which was first established in Switzerland in 1970 and which has become a worldwide known professional art event. Due its success the festival set a new path by creation, in 2002, a very alike event in Miami, which has the same essence. Art Basel is now considered one of the most prestigious art event, displaying a range of works in 36 countries (Art Basel, 2018; Yoo, 2012)
Cities as a white canvas
Art’s versatility makes it an invaluable asset, and even cities have been able to benefit from creativity to boost their attractiveness. A worth to mention example is the Vivid Sindey, which takes place in the Australian city. The most relevant buildings are illuminated and they also host performances such as opera, theater and music events. It achieved its peak in 2011, when more than 400,000 attendees visited the city in order to enjoy this event. It is nowadays considered one of the most iconic festivals worldwide.
The Project: Objectives, Philosophy, City and Concept
On the next pages, the project will be explained, outlining its objectives and philosophy. It will also show the choice of the city, information about it and the concept this project seeks to develop.
As it was previously stated on the theoretical background, the attractiveness of a city has a crucial impact on its social and economic development and vice versa, and with the fast pace in which the world is changing, many small cities seem to have been left behind. The aim of this project is precisely to explore and develop a business plan for one of these cities, Boulogne-sur-Mer, for which two general goals have been established:
- In a short-medium term, to boost city’s potential as a cultural destination, turning it into a worldwide known place to spend culture-related holidays.
- In a long-term, to create value to the city, which would guarantee a sustainable social and economic development.
Concretely, the specific goals will be the followings:
- To create a “product” that increases consumption in the city, and that can work both as a tool for economic development while remaining of public interest.
- To combine artworks, gastronomy and music with the aim to create a multidisciplinary and memorable experience for all the visitors, no matter what their age, status or preferences are.
- To provide a framework where local and regional authorities can use the festival as a lever in order to enhance local culture.
- To promote environmental sustainability and to allow visitors to propose innovative ideas in order to achieve that aim.
While several examples of successful city branding have been analyzed, it is important to distinguish the characteristics that were chosen for this project and that adequate specifically to the city and the culture that it is aimed to boost.
- Democratization of culture: ensure that there is no segmentation of the population when assessing the benefits of the project.
- “Edutainment”: combine both entertainment and education, aiming to help discover new features of the city in a unique and surprising way.
- Integration of existing infrastructure inside the city, not only enabling new spaces, but also promoting a pleasant living environment, making it a suitable place for inspiration, entertainment and living.
- Diversity and uniqueness in order to meet a wide range of tastes while being original and attractive.
The choice of Boulogne-sur-Mer
Located in the region Hauts-de-France in the north of France, Boulogne-sur-Mer is a seaside city on the coast called Côte d’Opale and represents one of the country’s largest fishing ports, specialized in herring and mackerel, among a remarkable diversity of species. With a population of about 45,000 inhabitants and 161,007 inhabitants in its economic area, it is the second largest city of the department after Calais. The department Pas-de-Calais is populated by 1,472,645 people, and the region Hauts-de-France by 6,009,976 people. These figures were elaborated by the agency Boulogne-sur-Mer Développement Côte d’Opale, on the basis of the data of a census of the population made by the INSEE.
A rich history
Boulogne-sur-Mer has an impressive history, especially due to its central position in Europe and its proximity with Great Britain. It has always had a strategic and political role, more than economic. The History of the city is narrated in deep detail in Alain Lottin’s book, entitled Histoire de Boulogne-sur-Mer ville d’art et d’histoire (History of Boulogne-sur-Mer, city of art and history, in English). Charlemagne went to Boulogne in 811 to create a maritime fleet to protect convoys from the pirates, as the prosperity of the city was well-known. Then, in 884, the Vikings came to Boulogne-sur-Mer and occupied the port, while the upper town remained impregnable thanks to its fortress. After having built 300 boats, they left and went to the British coast. After that, various Counts and Countesses got married with British and Belgian counterparts in order to increase their power on the sea and at a European scale. It is the case Eustache II who married Ide, a descendant of Charlemagne. One of their sons, Godefroi de Bouillon, became very famous because of his role in the first Crusade to Jerusalem. What significantly played a role in Boulogne-sur-Mer’s history is the relationship with England, and more precisely the various periods of occupation by England as well as the occupation of England. On the 14th of July of 1544, the king Henry VIII attacked the city with 25,000 infantrymen, 4,000 riders and numerous cannons, whereas Boulogne-sur-Mer only had 1,800 soldiers to fight. After 6 years under occupation, the city became French again, but just for a period of time. Indeed, in 1769, it was mainly populated by English people. After war, peace, a treaty in Amiens and its breakdown, Napoleon planned to invade England in 1803. In August 1805, there were more than 60,000 individuals in the military base in Boulogne-sur-Mer. Other historical characters like for instance Saint Martin, liberator of his country, Argentina, arrived in Boulogne-sur-Mer in 1849 to live and die there. In 1927, the Republic of Argentina acquired his house which became the consulate until 1968.
A strong identity
In addition to its remarkable history, the city’s identity and traditions explain the choice of Boulogne-sur-Mer as a new cultural destination. Culinary specialties and local dishes can be mentioned, such as the Welch or the Plum Pudding, imported from the United Kingdom and then adapted. Cheese is emblematic as well, as in most of the cities around Boulogne-sur-Mer, where a kind of cheese is produced and has the name of the concerned city. Moreover, Philippe Olivier, a great cheese dairy, is located there. One of its cheeses called Vieux Boulogne, made from milk of cows grazing salted water has been named as the most odoriferous in the world. One of the most picturesque events is the “Guénels” tradition. One night in December, children walk down the streets with beets they have transformed in funny lanterns to receive sweets. For Saint Nicholas, a parade is also frequent. For the herring celebration, two giants, Bâtisse, a boulonnais fisher, and Zabelle, his spouse, are the key characters. They wear the traditional outfits, showing some similarity with the Breton ones. Some other symbols can also be mentioned, like the local ring and its original form, or the patois called “Chti”, which is quite not spoken anymore. Without any doubt, Boulogne-sur-Mer, thanks to its identity, does have the potential to considerably gain in attractiveness, from a cultural point of view and then, consequently, on the economic aspect.
A political voluntarism and a favorable environment
It can also be added to the previous considerations that there is a clear political will to improve the city’s quality of life and make it more pleasant. One can refer to the construction of a pedestrian walkway all along the river called La Liane, or also to the current project of building a green park. The municipal authority gives importance to the urban living conditions through investments in infrastructure and improvement of the configuration of the public area. Furthermore, the municipal project of an extension of the cinema into a modern cinematographic multiplex, keeping its Art et Essai specificity and adding 11 rooms with a capacity of 2,000 seats, a cutting-edge 3D technology, a resolution of 48 images per second, will be a supplementary asset to the city’s attractiveness.
Another aspect which must be taken into account is the economy related to tourism. In this regard, there are many hotels, youth hostels, bed and breakfast, furnished flats and other types of accommodation in Boulogne and its surroundings, some of which have a label testifying of their quality.
A lagging-behind even though economically attractive city
Boulogne-sur-Mer is part of one of the French top 3 regions for economic attractiveness thanks to its geographic localization. Despite that, the economic and industrial activity of both the city and its region can be considered as weak in comparison to the rest of the country. Indeed, the unemployment rate of 11,9% is two points higher than the national figure. Moreover, various shops of the two main commercial streets recently closed because of the competition of big shopping malls in other cities of the department, especially La Cité Europe in Calais. The region also suffered the end of coal extraction from the mines, the deindustrialization and the European directives for a “Blue Europe” concerning overfishing. The population has been slightly decreasing for a few years, as other regions are more attractive for sunshine and employment. People also leave the area for more dynamic cities, such as Lille for example. As the study Cahiers de l’Observatoire, Analyses et Perspectives of the agency Boulogne-sur-Mer Développement Côte d’Opale shows, there has been a slight demographic decline of 0,15% per year in the migratory balance between 2010 and 2015 in the employment area of Boulogne-sur-Mer. The area has lost 1206 inhabitants during these 5 years. Thus, it might be an indication that a cultural creation would reinforce the city’s vitality and have a significant positive impact.
A local tourism
In Boulogne-sur-Mer there are two relevant museums: Nausicaa, an impressive maritime center, as well as the castle’s museum displaying ancient art. One can visit its port with the fishing boats and buy fresh fish displayed under the seagulls. It is also possible enjoy the architecture of the Saint Nicholas Church, the Notre Dame Cathedral and its crypt, the town ramparts and the historical center. People can also seize the opportunity to take part in a little boat trip during summer or go to the theater.
In the region, a few cultural sites of interest are the Castle of the Entente Cordiale in Condette, where one can discover ephemeral exhibitions, as well as its Elizabethan theater, offering modern and surprising plays. It is also possible to participate in the crazy carnival in Le Portel or in Dunkerque. A bit farer, there is the Louvre Lens, a smaller Musée du Louvre in the North.
The city presents above all a local tourism, even though it attracts a minority of foreigners. Most of the foreign tourists are Belgian, Dutch or even British, as they come because of its the proximity with Calais, where boats and under-the-sea trains arrive from the other side of the sea. According to the Center of Promotion, Marketing and Commerce of the tourism office of the Boulonnais Côte d’Opale, 72,848 persons entered tourism offices in Boulogne-sur-Mer and its surroundings on 2017. But people generally do not come from far or from abroad with the purpose of visiting the city. Therefore, an action plan could be implemented in order to attract more tourists, particularly on an international scale.
Making Boulogne-sur-Mer an international cultural destination is both feasible and promising. This is feasible because of the city’s rich history, strong identity and remarkable traditions, as well as thanks to the favorable environment regarding urbanism and tourism related activity. This project is undoubtedly promising because not only will it stimulate cultural life, but it will also bring economic benefits for the city and the surrounding region.
Surrounding area of Boulogne-sur-Mer
Calais is the largest city of the department of Pas de Calais situated in northern France, as well as an important port near the English Channel because of its crucial geographic situation. Additionally, it only takes less than two hours to travel from this point to the French capital, Paris. The convenient transport links to the other main cities in France attract more than 10 million tourists to Calais every year. Calais possesses around 1,3 hundred thousand inhabitants in the metropolitan area.
With its long and rich history, the tourist resources in Calais are vast. In the city of Calais, there are several important landmarks which are attractive and historical, like Place d’Armes, Hotel de Ville (which has been listed as a heritage by UNESCO), the Towers, the forts and of course the museums, theatres and cultural centers.
The development of the Urban Culture Center of Calais Côte d’Opale is now becoming more and more attractive to the modern artists in Calais. Those artists include graffiti artists like Jank and Nicolas Flahaut, alias Vyrüs, and dancers like those of KLA District group and European BBoys champions. There are also several tattoo artists who are famous in the Europe and even in worldwide choose Urban Culture Center as their career center.
Saint-Omer is known as a community of the department of Pas de Calais situated 68 kilometers from the northern French city Lille. At the same time, it is also not far away from Great Britain and Belgium which makes it a popular destination for tourists. Saint-Omer is a multicultural community with its various ethnics, languages and immigrants. In the West Flemish part of Saint-Omer is situated the Haut-Pont, which has Flemish and Belgian roots. Besides, Turkish, Greek and the other communities live all together in this area.
As a historical port, Saint-Omer has lived a long and complex history on its land which also left rich cultural resources, like the fortifications and military constructions, the Old Cathedral, which was built in the 13-14th century, the City Hall with the theater, a picture gallery and a records collection.
In the Saint-Omer Public Library you can find one of the three French copies of the 42-line Gutenberg Bible which was originally from the library of the Abbey of Saint Bertin. Besides, a previously unknown Shakespeare First Folio was found in a public library in Saint-Omer. The Saint-Omer Library has been open to the public since 1805 which was built on the former site Jesuit college in 1640. The public library is important in researching the Audomarois region from the early Middle Age to the modern era with its rich collection of historical books and other kind of documents. Besides, Saint-Omer Library’s collections include more than 35,000 volumes, with 886 manuscripts and over 200 incunabula.
Museum Sandelin is located in the Nord-Pas de Calais region which was built in a sumptuous private mansion from the 18th Century. The museum holds various collections of about 3,000 works and artworks from the Middle-Ages and until the 19th century, which are on display in the 21 beautiful rooms.
Étaples is a community of the department of Pas de Calais in the northern France, located not far away from the city of Boulogne-sur-Mer, with a distance of 30 kilometers in-between.
The Étaples region keeps a lot of museums and sites of interest like The Rope Walk, which houses the Museum of the Miniature; the Maréis, which shows all aspects of sea fishing; The Étaples Museum of Seafaring that mainly presents the history of fishing in this area; The Quentovic archaeological museum and the Étaples Military Cemetery.
Caps et Marais d’Opale Regional Nature Park
Caps et Marais d’Opale Regional Nature Park is also situated in Pas de Calais. The nature park is surrounded by Boulogne-sur-Mer, Calais and the other communities of Calais. The Regional Nature Park was created by aiming to provide development and heritage protection.
Caps et Marais d’Opale Regional Nature Park came into existence in 2000 with the
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