On July 4th, Routes de la Lavande® were invited to the official launch of the candidacy for the inscription of the “olfactory and poetic landscapes” of lavender to the Unesco World Heritage. This approach, initiated by the CPPARM, the UESS and PPAM de France, has received the support of many national and local elected officials. An opportunity for Lionel Terrail, President of Grandes Itinérances, and animator of the Lavender Routes since 2009, to reaffirm the deep link between tourism and lavender in Provence.
In the 1990s, lavender growers joined forces with tourism institutions to create the Lavender Routes. A simple idea: to offer visitors panoramic routes, criss-crossing the lavender landscapes and punctuated by stops at producers’ homes where they can discover their work and products.
Lavender tourism was born, based on contemplation, discovery and encounter. A wonderful adventure that has been going on for nearly 30 years and that has allowed us to train many farmers to welcome visitors to their farms, to create sensory tours and attractive stores to develop retail sales.
Since then, every summer, thousands of tourists from all over the world follow one another along the roads of Provence to admire the landscapes that have made the reputation of this Mediterranean land, although it is reputed to be arid and even hostile if we are to believe the literature of Jean Giono or the poems of Frédéric Mistral.
For the 13 years that I have been leading the Lavender Routes, I have been amazed by the power of attraction of lavender, combining hedonism and sensoriality. Few agricultural crops can claim to generate cries of joy and tears of pleasure simply by being admired. The small miracle of the flowering, which is repeated every year, brings visitors, often uprooted, living in a dematerialized world, to reconnect with nature and to be moved by a small ephemeral flower with extraordinary powers.
The tourist activity in Provence owes a lot to the lavender and the lavender growers. In 2009, a study on the motivations of visitors for their trip to Provence, placed lavender in 2nd position after the sun. Another study indicated that the economic benefits of lavender tourism were 10 times greater than those generated by the industry itself.
This year, the Routes of Lavender have about sixty good addresses on 9 stages, that is to say nearly 1500km of route between the Drôme and the Alpes Maritimes, passing through the Ardèche, the Vaucluse, the Hautes-Alpes and the Alpes de Haute-Provence
Fully in line with the world of ecotourism and slow tourism, they are enriched by new activities with soft mobility, such as cycling, electrically assisted cycling or hiking, to reduce their impact on the environment and limit GHG emissions.
Meeting the producers and marveling at the landscapes are at the heart of the promise of the Lavender Routes. We sometimes forget that these landscapes, so emblematic, are not there by chance and that they are the fruit of a long and patient work on the part of the producers who, like architects, shape them, maintain them and magnify them, year after year.
I would like to thank them, on behalf of the tourism industry, for continuing to amaze us and for allowing us to admire them every year. And to thank them for allowing access to their culture so that visitors can continue to immerse themselves in the fields and pose for their posterity. And, finally, as a former member of the fund for the safeguard of the lavender heritage of Provence, to thank all the professionals who are committed to agro-ecological and sustainable practices to perpetuate the cultivation of lavender in Provence, facing the effects of global warming.
These landscapes are an integral part of French heritage. Their classification as a UNESCO World Heritage Site would of course be a magnificent recognition of the farmers’ know-how. It would also be an additional asset for Provencal tourism because it would add body and meaning to the contemplation of these landscapes that have become (probably too) Instagrammable.
Thank you for having associated the actors of tourism to the launching of this beautiful adventure which I wish punctuated with success. I hope that it will further strengthen the links between agriculture and tourism, which I believe are inseparable in our destinations. Finally, I hope that it will be supported in the long term by all the interested parties, whom I invite to mobilize in order to make this project, which is meaningful and valuable for Provence, a success.