Posted on July 28, 2022, 11:00 AM
The Gers, a rural section where the good life was epitomized by the 1995 film “Happiness is in the Meadow”, is at the forefront of “slow tourism”. Slow and ecological tourism was born from the Italian movement of “slow food” and “Citaslow”, this international network of 300 good living cities created in 1999, five of which are Gers: Cazaubon, Lectoure, Mirande, Samatan and Cimour First national meeting of slow tourism in 2019 Organized in the city of Samatan, known for its wholesale market.
“We knew that ecotourism was going to assert itself when we invented the Terra Gers brand in 2008, when the Departmental Council supported the change to organic farming, explains José-Louis Pereira, Director of the Departmental Tourism Committee (CDT). We asked tourism stakeholders to remind them of the Gorse destination values. » A country destination with a high standard of living, local products and a tradition and cultural offer such as jazz at the Marseille Festival.
3,500 km hike
The 2015-2019 regional tourism center framework agreement signed with the state highlighted the Terra Gers brand around the themes of flavor and soft travel. The CDT and the Chamber of Commerce have restructured the network of tables du gers. A soft movement has developed.
Little French Tuscany, with its hills and stone bastides, has 3,500 kilometers of hiking trails, 65 kilometers of waterways and 700 cycles, on horseback or on foot. Cycle route 82 in the Bais valley extends over 137 km from the Deux-Mars canal to Lanmezan (Hautes-Pyrénées) and joins the Scandiberik. The electric bike routes of the Pays Portes de Gascogne offer art and environmental circuits with around twenty land art.
“Slow tourism is a promise to breathe, an encounter that transforms,” enthuses José-Louis Pereira. Experience a slow location and live what you have to share, do not accumulate space! According to their wishes, visitors ride an electric bike to a cultural site, stop at a leisure center or learn about permaculture in a guest room.
More than 300 companies, bed and breakfasts, hotels, campsites, cultural venues have been labeled Terra Gers, honoring a certificate of integrity and quality. with success. In fifteen years, tourism has grown from 3 to 9% of GDP and achieved a turnover of 350 million euros in 2019. “We have grown from 890,000 to 2.1 million visitors thanks to our proximity to tourists and a vibrant countryside. Which hosts cultural activities throughout the year and contains six wine appellations”, notes José-Louis Pereira.
Heaton Farm in Biran, 20 kilometers west of Auch, voted “Favorite Farm of the French in 2021” by Stéphane Bern’s program in France 3, is gradually turning to tourism. After wandering around, Emmanuel and Cécile Guichard took it over in 2011, specializing in “slow” cosmetics and donkey (and goat) milk soaps from 40 donkeys bred in the Pyrenees. The farm also cultivates 10 species of aromatic plants and drinks essential oils and flower water.
A couple of soap makers were already organizing free visits. This summer, he’s opening a large lodge with a swimming pool in an old renovated house, and three safari tented lodges next to a wood and a massage parlor that offers donkey milk baths. “Many of the 6,000 visitors who come to see the soap factory each year ask to stay,” says Manu Guichard. We have created a slow tourism activity based on respect for animals on a farm labeled organic and “nature and progress”. Tourists come here for the rural experience. The program allows them to follow a course in soap making and oil distillation, participate in donkey milking and go on donkey safaris.
For their part, Nathalie Bernert and Patrick Goas bought a campsite in Sisan two years ago that they converted into an eco-resort with catering and entertainment services, Whaka Lodge des Trois Lacs. They replaced the mobile homes with 53 wooden and canvas lodges, including a “love bubble” with a starry sky and an African cabin. With the slogan: “You don’t have to go far to be anywhere else. »