“When locals play tourist “guides”” by Cyril Petit

Today, residents show off their city for free…

We call them Greeters, GREETERS. This concept, invented in New York in 1992, comes from the English “to greet”. Receptionists are residents who, on a voluntary basis, introduce small groups of tourists to their city. Example: Gillaine is a receptionist in the Vallées d’Auge and Merlerault, in Orne. In particular, she organizes a visit to Charlotte Corday, known for having murdered Jean-Paul Marat in 1793. In the program: the birthplace of the Norman murderess in Les Champeaux (121 inhabitants). But also the church where she was baptized and the manor house where she grew up. “At 78 years old, when I return from a visit like this, I feel rejuvenated, trust Gillaine Norman alarm clock. I like to share my passion with people who are always interested and interesting.” Last week, the local Community of Municipalities even launched a call for people who are passionate about their territory to join the network of receptionists. And visit the history, heritage, local personalities, fauna, flora, old industrial facilities, horses, etc.

This form of tourist visit is increasingly popular in France…

Annecy, Cannes, Avesnois and even Paris… We are the world champion country with 67 hostess networks, Bastien Ruaux, a doctoral student in sociology in Caen, who is preparing a thesis on participatory tourism, told me. 4,930 visits were organized in 2022. And the number of these local ambassadors is estimated at 1,700. Including Valérie, resident of Lion-sur-Mer, near Caen: “What I like is that we move at the pace of the people, the sixty-year-old man told Ouest-France. I like slow tourism. We are focused on the meeting. Very quickly, you become the ambassador of your city and neighborhood, making them love you in every way.”

Do receptionists have rules to follow?

Yes: for example, you must be 18 years old to be a receptionist and groups are limited to 6 people. Extracted from the official letter: “A Greeter is not a guide, it helps you discover your region in a unique, authentic and friendly way, during a walk. These tours have nothing in common with professional guided tours focused on the heritage experience.” Certainly, but the border is sometimes blurred with the activity of a “real” tour guide, whose job is…

We imagine Cirilo that professionals are worried…

Many are asking for clarification. Because if a receptionist allows you to discover a rural area where there is no professional, the issue is more thorny in big cities. “A proposed visit to a resident does not represent any problem for us, reacted Coline Goret, president of the Federation of Guides of Normandy. But if it becomes an alternative to paid visits, it will be problematic, like in Paris or Bordeaux.” Other criticisms heard here and there: non-compliance with the ban on visiting listed monuments, the support of certain tourist offices or even the use of the “guide” modality for these volunteers. “We are also passionate, but with deep knowledge of the subjects”, addresses a speaker. In Ouest-France, the president of the French Greetings Federation defends himself be a competitor: “On average, a receptionist organizes a tour every two or three months, for two to three people.“It’s not much, actually. It also highlights the pleasure of receiving, summarized in a very marketing neologism: “welcoming”.

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