TourMaG.com – As we discuss, we are a few hours away from the presidential address, but above all we have a part of France confined and a ban for holiday villages to open their restaurants. How do you analyze the reopening announcements of your competitors?
Damien Duval: I am surprised at these announcements.
We have seen since the beginning of the crisis that the administration has a binary approach to our activity, namely from July 15 to August 15, the summer season and then mountain skiing in winter. She forgets a whole part of the economy, namely the off-season.
The latter represents for Cap France, our high season. We have 80 establishments and 70% of the turnover of these addresses is generated in April, May June, then September and October.
I am happy to see that the French and my colleagues are planning on the Easter holidays, but I preferred that we draw attention to groups that cancel, whether it is seniors, discovery classes or seminars.
In addition, in terms of group activity, we are in a frozen market, since these are postponements from 2020. Moreover, now in the event of new cancellations, we are no longer protected and we must reimburse.
“at the end of May and the beginning of June, the sector will reach a red zone”
TourMaG.com – What have you decided for your holiday villages?
Damien Duval: We preferred to keep our establishments closed during the April holidays.
Quite simply because we cannot guarantee the quality of our product without the restaurants.
We are not made to click and collect and we do not want our customers to have their breakfasts in rooms of 15m², for a few days.
The DNA of holiday villages revolves around conviviality, catering and meetings. Today when I hear that my colleagues are opening, but without the collective catering spaces, I am very surprised.
It is necessary to have a discourse of transparency and truth, that is to say that at the end of May and the beginning of June, the sector will reach a red zone. The level of cash is, from a general point of view, worrying.
Admittedly, the solidarity fund exists, but only for 3 months, while the crisis has been going on for a year. We therefore committed our cash flow, with assets to be repaid massively in September and October.
TourMaG.com – What are you asking from the government?
Damien Duval: We want to open completely, gradually, no later than early June.
When I say fully, it is with our restaurants. We are ahead of last year, compared to the summer, with French people already planning a vacation in France.
It’s very positive, but it only represents 30% of our turnover. Especially since we have doubts about the success of these holidays, with regard to the health situation.
Afterwards, I remain positive. If we do not miss this essential step, then the future of holiday villages is quite bright. I trust Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne and the government.
Easter holidays: “I find it hard to understand the benefit of an opening”
TourMaG.com – You doubt the economic interest of opening holiday villages in April?
Damien Duval: As much for my colleagues who will propose a rental offer, during the next holidays I can understand. However, in view of the health situation today and the restrictions, I find it difficult to understand the benefit of an opening.
In addition, we risk providing a service that will not meet customer expectations. I speak for Cap France. You have a lot of restrictions that apply to our infrastructure, since in addition to catering, indoor swimming pools and wellness areas are closed.
Admittedly the outdoor swimming pools are open, but in April it is not warm everywhere in France. So you understand that it is vital to keep a full open for late May early June.
TourMaG.com – What is the protocol in the event of reopening?
Damien Duval: Precisely, we have a V1 protocol dating from last year, for our reopening on June 2, 2020.
Today I am unable to tell you if this protocol will be applied or if it will be a new version. Except that in order to prepare for the summer season, we need to know under what conditions we will reopen.
This engages our recruitment campaigns, because if we must have 4 or 8m² per customer, in our restaurants, but also children’s clubs, etc. We cannot foresee any recruitment, without guarantee of the extension of the partial activity at the same rate, until the end of June.
TourMaG.com – Do you see an interest from your customers for the Easter holidays? While part of France is confined, especially the country’s large population and economic basins.
Damien Duval: If I speak for Cap France, from April to June, our clientele is mainly made up of groups.
We have individual clients during these periods, of course, but they are not the majority and this is undoubtedly the case for my colleagues. So to answer your question, and you will understand it correctly, we only have reservations for the summer of 2021.
I am delighted, moreover, because we are ahead. On the other hand, I cannot explain to myself that with a year of hindsight, vaccines, we could not open on June 2nd.
To be honest, we have experienced two important peaks, with the announcement of non-containment by Jean Castex, then with the return of the sun. We are seeing a slowdown from local lockdowns.
TourMaG.com – What does the group activity represent in April for Cap France?
Damien Duval: This segment represents 70 to 85% depending on the destination, from April to June.
This activity is very important, because of the down payments that we collect much earlier in the year and which partly allow us to keep the business going off season, from October to March.
Except that in October 2019, our establishments close, then in March 2020 the confinement, with a considerable wave of cancellations, until June.
We then reopen at the beginning of June, but the time to put everything in place and without too many reservations, the start of the season really started in July 2020.
So our season lasted from July to September, then we had a new lockdown. To sum up, in a year and a half we will have had 3 full months, with the assets to manage in the long term.
“We have real concerns about financial guarantees”
TourMaG.com – In summary, the sector will end up with a bloodless cash flow, when it reopens in May or June … If ever Emmanuel Macron announces confinement?
Damien Duval: Exactly, that’s why it is necessary to alert the authorities.
I remain very confident, despite everything, because the Government has always been by our side. I am not here to criticize, especially in such a situation, when the epidemic is not under control.
Under these conditions, it is complicated to have a reassuring speech, by inviting the French to book for the month of June 2021, but it would be good for the industry for us to have a minimum of visibility.
TourMaG.com – You also have a problem to report concerning solidarity funds …
Damien Duval: You know, it’s not automatic, there are a few holes in the racket.
I take the case of holiday villages integrated into the social and solidarity economy, therefore not taxed, the administration considers that any non-taxed association does not have to receive the solidarity fund. We are talking about “summer camps” and other child-friendly structures.
And again, in December, we had an administrative closure until December 15, 2020, then an opening without the catering. You have no idea how many rejections the sector has experienced.
We have wasted a tremendous amount of time. We can’t fault the administration for it, but cash management is not so obvious.
Afterwards, we have real concerns, for our sector and more generally for tourism, at the level of financial guarantees.
TourMaG.com – You’re talking about the APST …
Damien Duval: There are four guarantors, but the market has been frozen for a year.
They no longer take any files. While accommodation and food services are in a critical situation, young entrepreneurs want to get started, but they cannot, because they will not have a business.
Today, who wants to guarantee accommodation and tourism in view of the situation?
Holiday villages: “It will be necessary to rethink our economic and commercial model”
TourMaG.com – A private company, faced with such uncertainty, companies that only run 3 months a year … will never take the risk of insuring an actor. So you are asking the state to intervene?
Damien Duval: I know that the ministry is aware of the total blockage, UNAT too, but we are facing a real problem.
The actors are subject to the obligation of guarantee to be registered, except that it is not possible to find a guarantor. I understand the position of the guarantors, without prospects, it is complicated to get involved.
Moreover, the latter are very attentive in particular to the management of assets, but also to the level of cancellations. From now on, a point is made in the middle of the year, to see the economic health of companies.
Despite everything, we remain positive and hope for a reopening, even if the restaurants do not reopen in mid-April. We have time, so let’s work on the recovery.
TourMaG.com – Regarding assets, what would you like?
Damien Duval: It is not so much an administrative response as the management of assets that we expect, but rather a transformation of the EMP.
We could imagine a Marshall Plan for the hotel and catering industry, with the reimbursement of EMPs postponed … to Greek calendars. We could manage the repayment of assets and rethink our economic model, while securing the closing periods.
TourMaG.com – How do you imagine the future of Cap France?
Damien Duval: I am an eternal optimist.
I know that on the side of our customers or our employees, everyone is in the starting blocks but not for now, for next year. In 2020, we absolutely couldn’t imagine that 2021 might be harder.
You have seasonal workers who have not been hired for several months, employees who have been in partial activity for a year, etc.
Despite everything, our customers are there, so I don’t think there will be a change in their habits.
I don’t think we need to review our product, to be a mix between hotel and holiday village, however, it will be necessary to rethink our economic and commercial model.
Interview with Romain Pommier
Journalist – TourMaG.com
See all articles by Romain Pommier