After the trees come down and tourism slows, the need arises to build up our attractions , market them and provide services to ensure a future for Capestang in tourism.
The Port of Capestang is in the process of becoming a pavilion blue classification, which means more tourists will stop in our port. What can we do as a village to ensure it is their most memorable stop along the Midi?
Here are some ideas…
#1 Customer Service
Virtually an unheard of concept in France, many businesses do not think ‘bending over backwards’ for a potential buyer brings in serious consumers. However, they could not be more wrong. Customer services prove to build long-term loyal customers and consumers talk. You want to change the world’s opinion of France, let us start with Capestang, and bring in the concept of customer service.
#2 Services along the canal for tour barges and boats
This includes Wi-Fi, water and electrical available to the tourists coming by boat. Currently 40 parking spots with all the amenities, 20 more to come and 20 unofficial spots without electricity. (Concurrently Capestang needs parking spaces for cars as well.)
This brings up another point about disposal of sewage directly into the canal. Although some have treatment facilities on board and dump treated sewer into the canal, I don’t understand why at each port it is not mandatory to have a sewer dumping station that runs into the Capestang sewer system. It would be exactly the same idea as a campsite that runs sewer stations for emptying out camper van toilets.
I would love to see Capestang lead the way in yet another environmentally sound idea.
#3 Maps showing what we offer
Show them a map, not full of advertisements but our services. Give them options; walking paths, cycling routes, and things to experience- and they will stay longer. Many people do not know we have a beautiful church, a foyer where the bishop once lived, and remains of a fortified city in the village core. A walking tour of Capestang maps out the sites, and sharing our tourist information centre with the passerby will get the information out there.
#4 Make use of our surroundings
Miles of vineyards surround us, unlike anything I have experienced in my North American life. Walkers and cyclists could have a outdoor experience in Capestang during spring and fall in the off-season if correctly marketed. To extend our season, we need to offer more to the public on vacation.
#5 Slow Down Capestang/Safety Issues
If the boats do not slow down while they travel through Capestang, they will never know we are here. Speed signs on the canal banks with 4Km/hour clearly written would let travellers know this is an active community, with a need to be careful when you pass through.
Speed bumps along the canal road would also slow traffic making it safe for tourists, canal boat residents and workers. It would also detour big trucks from using Capestang as a short cut to other villages.
There are two ways to slow down the traffic along the main roads; either build out the roads to one lane in spots to slow the traffic to a stop to let by the oncoming traffic, or to build larger speed bumps and post flashing speed signs along the main roads. Both solutions do work although the second does take away from the beauty of a village, yet very affective and perhaps a cheaper solution.
#6 Ethical Pricing
It is temping for vendors at the market to charge more to our tourists thinking they have loads of money and they will never come back. The down side of this is that in the online world tourist talk. They also connect on the canal and at tourist attractions, and a bad store in your village can detour visitors from stopping in your village at all. One bad apple in the bunch ruins the whole basket.
#7 Clean-up Capestang
Fix the main road and the paths along the canal to make the over-all appearance of our village more pleasant. Watch as many cars and boats motor through our village as fast as they can, having no idea they just passed through the sweetest little French village. Our outward appearance is just as important as being true to who we are. Just like a job interview, we need to put our best foot forward.
Now without the plane trees along the canal, we need to build up the areas around for people to stop. One suggestion is to build a playground and picnic area with a covered area to protect them from the sun in between our bridges on the bank on the church side.
#8 Flower Village
Capestang has the potential to become a Flower Village and has been on the list for eight years. Becoming a flower village is a simple way to attract visitors, many who only visit France to go from one ‘Flower Village’ or ‘Beautiful Village’ to the next and skip the rest. Especially coach-tours could bring in thousands a day! If we were on one of these lists, it would ensure droves of visitors and create tourism and in turn jobs for our village.
#9 Welcome Signage
Let us show tourists that we are a friendly place to stop. ‘Welcome to Capestang’ and on the other side ‘Thank-you for visiting’- tells them that we want them here, and are ready for them. If the signage is not allowed, we can write ‘Bienvenue Capestang’ along the bank on either side of the boarders of our village in flowers. (This is a Canadian custom) One right outside the collège, perhaps a joint venture with them during the school year to teach the students about horticulture.
#10 No Parking
No parking in the centre village for non-residents during the summer would slow down the village for pedestrians and cyclists. Of course, in turn, a need for parking lots would arise, so perhaps two parking lots, one near the tennis courts and another near the cemetery are proposed.
#11 Dog Pooh
Why does no one clean up his or her dog’s excrement? In Canada we have a $2000 fine for a person caught not picking up their dog’s crap. Can we impose a fine? Especially when it is not customary to take your shoes off in someone’s house. Are the risks of illness not apparent when it comes to faeces on your floor, in your schools and in our stores.
Dog faeces can pose a significant health risk to humans, particularly young children as their immune systems are not fully developed. All faeces contain bacteria that can cause stomach upsets, but the greatest risk is from toxocariasis which may lead to blindness. Toxocara is the name given to a species of roundworm commonly found in dogs and cats.
#12 Free WiFi Zone
Is it possible to make Capestang a free WiFi zone? Downtown Budapest has this service and all the tourists gather in the area to access free WiFi. They have this at most airports now as well, where tourists can put in a code to access free internet. Capestang is so small why not make it a free zone year round?
#13 Free English Lessons
A free basic English class for all business owners in Capestang to learn how to greet tourists. The most successful tourist destinations have basic English in tourist areas to boost business. It could help Capestang and with so many retired teachers here, perhaps we can offer the service for free and build a connection with the English and French speakers of our village.
#14 Community Gardens and Heirloom Seed Exchange Program
This ties in to the idea that people will come to see what we are doing and to be an example of something positive and good for our community. It could build relations with neighbouring villages and through meetings and gardening events, in turn builds tourism.
So why heirloom seeds and community gardens? To preserve the heritage and our future…
One kind of seed, called First generation hybrids (F1 hybrids), have been hand-pollinated, and are patented, often sterile, genetically identical within food types, and sold from multinational seed companies.
A second kind of seeds are genetically engineered. Bioengineered seeds are fast contaminating the global seed supply on a wholesale level, and threatening the purity of seeds everywhere. The DNA of the plant has been changed. A cold water fish gene could be spliced into a tomato to make the plant more resistant to frost, for example.
A third kind of seeds are called heirloom or open-pollinated, genetically diverse jewels that have been passed on from generation to generation.
With heirloom seeds there are 10,000 varieties of apples, compared to the very few F1 hyprid apple types.
The Mayan word “gene” means “spiral of life.” The genes in heirloom seeds give life to our future. Unless the 100 million backyard gardeners and organic farmers keep these seeds alive, they will disappear altogether. This is truly an instance where one person–a lone gardener in a backyard vegetable garden–can potentially make all the difference in the world.
By offering a seed exchange program, we select the best from our crops and take that variety forward. By saving our seeds it ensures an organic product that is not genetically modified. I have had problems trying to grow seeds from the vegetables we eat and they don’t flower or naturally reproduce, which means that genetically modifies products are getting into France although they are banned.
This is also a great way to build up your community and share in something traditional like gardening. Grandmothers will show their grandchildren handing down the local secrets and the future generations will thank us for it.
#15 Welcome Wagon
Welcome wagon used to be a wagon bringing gifts and samples from local merchants to newcomers in a community. Today is it a business in the United States that contacts new homeowners after relocation, providing them with coupons and advertisements from local businesses. When someone new comes to live in our village, why not get them some freebies from the businesses in Capestang to promote local shopping and not head towards Narbonne or Beziers to do their shop.
Let’s clean-up Capestang! If you have anything to add, please feel free to contact me.
Vote For Pierre Polard in the March 2014 election. He has good ideas for the future of Capestang, is young, smart and is exactly what this village needs.
You may wonder how a Canadian/Hungarian writer ends up on the registry for the Capestang March elections just two years into her life in France.
Well, Alfonz and I choose France out of the European Union to build a life for our family. We are not the first to fall in love with the medieval village of Capestang nestled along the Canal du Midi and all her charms; however for me volunteering for this campaign is about giving back to the village that took us in so openly.
My goal is to help tourists find what they need while in Capestang, and to preserve our village and heritage for generations. If there were a way for visitors to connect better, they would stay longer, and our residents could build a future in tourism. As a writer, I promote the region and French life.
Pierre Polard is a man of integrity, drive and motivation and his team is a diverse energetic group wanting what is best for the future of Capestang. With Polard’s education, expertise and experience in finance, makes him the right person for Mayor. His focus is on the fight against unemployment and to create job security.
Our main topics in this year’s election are:
*Inter-community- linking villages with services
*Expanding our retirement facilities
*Improving water quality and our treatment plant
*School schedules and adding extracurricular
It is our responsibility to leave things better than when we found them. If you see a need, you fill the need. It is that simple.