#Interview : Sylvain Langer, Director of the Pau-Pyrenees Tourist Office

10 March 2022

Could you tell us something about the history of Pau-Pyrenees? What are its main attractions / themes?

To introduce you to Pau-Pyrenees, I'd like to invite you and your family for lunch at my home on a sunny Sunday morning. I'll start the day with a visit to my home with its history dating back one thousand years. It was marked by the age of Antiquity, a medieval period and a period that saw two kings born in Pau: King Henri IV of France and the king of Sweden, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte. We'll go from room to room, journeying through our very rich history.

Before lunch, I'll show you my balcony over the Pyrenees: a panoramic view stretching for 180 km over the mountains. The poet Lamartine called it "the most beautiful view in the world".

Then we'll have lunch and share a meal made from local specialities that have made the reputation of the South-West: cheese, charcuterie, duck, etc.

To digest our lunch, we'll get some fresh air during a walk in our extraordinary garden: the Pyrenees and our national park with peaks rising to over 2,000 metres in altitude, thousands of animals roaming free and the unique Jurançon wine region ("wine of the King, the king of wines!"), producing sweet, dessert and dry white wines.

Now I hope you'll want to come and see us soon!

Could you talk to us about your work at the Tourist Office?

Our destination management service is very important. It covers a very wide area, ranging from northern Spain to Bordeaux, as well as the Basque coast, which means we can provide tour operators with all-inclusive packages all over south-western France. We cater for groups and individual visitors.

I would say that there are two main ways to include Pau-Pyrenees in a tour package: either by taking Pau as a basecamp and organising excursions in the vicinity, in the Pyrenees, along the coast and as far as Lourdes, or to include the town in a tour, often beginning from Bordeaux airport, with stopovers in the Bordeaux wine region, on Arcachon Bay, on the Basque coast and in the Pyrenees.

Who are your main customers (before Covid)? And what changes have you seen since the pandemic?

Our customers are generally French. About 20% of our customers come from abroad, about half are Spanish, followed by visitors from Belgium, the UK and Germany.

The Covid-19 crisis has of course had an impact on our clientele, with far fewer visitors arriving from abroad during the pandemic. We refocused on visitors from the region and from within a range of 200 km around the town.

But we saw a record rise in visitor numbers in summer 2020 and 2021 with the return of visitors from Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Germany, and in higher numbers than in summer 2019. This shows our customers' interest and the attractiveness of Pau-Pyrenees, with a guarantee of well-preserved nature, wide-open spaces, genuine encounters and accommodation adapted to sharing and getting together with loved ones. 

What about accommodation and hotels in the town?

In the town of Pau, we have 5,000 hotel beds, ranging from 2 to 5 stars.

We have launched a major hotel-modernisation project with the support of the government and the local authorities to provide an upgrade in the quality of our hotel services.

We are also seeing an upgrade in restaurant services with very high-quality gastronomic cuisine served in around 15 restaurants, and we hope that a (Michelin) star will rise in the region to highlight our tastiest specialities!

What are some of the major new developments on offer? 

When you visit Pau-Pyrenees, here are 5 things not to be missed:

  1. A walk along the Boulevard des Pyrenees in Pau, a chance to explore the history of a holiday resort that was popular with the English in the 19th century
  2. A visit to the National Museum and Château of PAU, birthplace of King Henri IV
  3. The Pau indoor market for a gourmet tour (available in 3 languages)
  4. A visit to a winemaker for a wine-tourism experience
  5. A trip to the Pyrenees on the Artouste sightseeing train, the highest in Europe (at an altitude of 2000 m), with the chance to see some of the wonders of nature in the mountains, including the mountain lakes and the world of pastoral farming.

We also have several new projects and have worked hard to renew wine tourism services with all-round experiences to enjoy during visits to our wine estates, going well beyond just a wine tasting.

So, in summer 2021, we launched "Les Casses Croutes Vignerons" ("Winemakers' Snacks"), including a visit to a wine estate and a complete picnic basket with local specialities.

Available all through the year for 2 people and over. In French, English and Spanish.

>> Book on the Pau-Pyrenees tourism website 

Could you tell us more about the main events in the region? 

Our diary is filled with major events with a worldwide scope.

First of all, the Pau Grand Prix in May, with a major innovation this year: the arrival of the vehicle of tomorrow in the motor race, with low-carbon fuel and electric cars. This will lead to a 90% reduction in C02. Pau is aiming to be an example in this regard through a legendary event that has been part of the town's history since 1930.

Next, we have the world's most famous cycling event: the Tour de France, which we are proud to say has visited Pau 73 times!

Lastly, in October we host the "5 Etoiles de Pau", France's only complete horse-riding competition. There are just 5 competitions at this level worldwide, and Pau is part of the circuit, with 3 events: dressage, show-jumping and cross-country riding.

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