The origins of remembrance tourism
Between the 17th and the 20th centuries, France was the site of a great number
of armed conflicts which left behind many remnants as a lasting legacy.
From past battles and especially the conflicts waged in two world wars, France today is home to a rich and diverse heritage that is unrivalled worldwide. Battlefields, the ruins of defence structures, commemorative monuments, military cemeteries and museums are so many sites to which a visit is an act of honouring the memory of the men and women who were killed during these conflicts and understanding the events which forged a national and world history.
At the helm of this important memorial heritage, the French Ministry of Defence is today one of the key stakeholders of remembrance tourism in France. Working in conjunction with other ministries, France’s Ministry of Defence is the contact and partner of a number of external parties, such as local authorities, memorial trusts and the representatives of foreign governments, in charge of managing the remembrance tourism policy in France. A division of the French Ministry of Defence, the Directorate of Memory, Heritage and Archives (DMPA) is responsible for directing the ministry's role as both stakeholder and leader of its remembrance tourism policy.
Well-established but still poorly organised, remembrance tourism is currently undergoing a remarkable revival, as shown by the renewed interest in the subject by local authorities and the action taken by some foreign governments.
From battlefield pilgrimage to remembrance tourism
Since 1917, the Michelin company has published guides to battlefields aimed at the families of soldiers. Even before the battles had ceased, these sites became destinations visited by families and the public. Following the notion of individual, private and family pilgrimage, remembrance tourism is a broader phenomenon which combines an individual and collective dimension as the determining factors of visits to these sites.
Today, the State is seeing a renewed energy among local and regional authorities which recognise the potential economic and cultural growth to be leveraged from remembrance tourism.
This is the spirit in which local authorities are undertaking and supporting ambitious memorial projects, often through public works that shed light on significant chapters of our local and national history. The State also has a duty to address the renewed interest of foreign governments who wish to keep alive, on behalf of their people, the memory of their nationals who died on the fields of honour in our land.
Remembrance tourism is therefore situated at the crossroads of several ambitions held by numerous stakeholders: a civic and educational ambition which consists of sharing a common history with the largest number and transmitting remembrance for contemporary conflicts to the French population; a cultural and heritage ambition which consists of guaranteeing the protection of places of remembrance and France’s civil and military heritage; finally, an economic ambition which aims to highlight the tourism dimension of this heritage in a bid to generate local wealth from the appeal of places of remembrance.
The State encourages this proaction, signing partnership agreements with the regions concerned which will ensure a coherent approach to the development of these sites.
Voyager au cœur de l'histoire grâce à de nouveaux outils
The cheminsdememoire.gouv.fr website is an external communication tool and part of the policy conducted by the Ministry of Defence to develop remembrance tourism in the country.
The aim of the website is to promote the remembrance sites found in France for which it provides numerous photo reports and information evenly distributed between different areas of interest: history, remembrance, tourism and culture.
History, remembrance, tourism and culture.
All the content is organised by:
Subject: Fortifications, the Franco-Prussian war, the First and Second World Wars, etc.
Location: battlefields, museums, necropolises, monuments, etc.
Search criteria: a specific nationality, period, region, type of heritage, etc. These criteria will help personalise and target your search more closely.
New sections, like the photo sharing feature, should improve interaction with visitors to the site who can also, using a mobile version and a Smartphone app, discover different places of remembrance when they are out and about.
New themed trails will also enable the tourist offering to be personalised to the public in question. These include trails aimed at foreign visitors who wish to visit places of combat and remembrance connected with their ancestors in France; geographic trails based around a town, a département, a region; trails tailored to the length of a stay, from a weekend to a week or more.
Translated into English and German and still well situated in search engines, the site is continually expanding and remains the primary reference site for places of remembrance for wars waged on French soil.
Source : MINDEF/SGA/DMPA