The number of tourists from the US and Japan has increased following the listing in July and while the region is “not ready [for the increase in tourism] today” Pierre Cheval insisted Champagne “will be completely ready in two years”.
“It has started. It started from now”, Cheval - president of the Associations Paysages du Champagne and Champagne Gatinois owner - told Drinks International. “The UNESCO World Heritage effect is felt immediately. We have seen 15% more tourists than last year, even in Oeuilly, from foreign countries.”
In the last ten years the number of guest rooms in Ay has increased from zero to 100, Cheval said. “Ten years ago there was nothing. So, the tourist business is already starting. We’re late compared to other wine regions because we don’t need to open doors at weekends. Champagne Houses don’t work weekends, selling bottles one by one,” Cheval added.
“It is a problem when you are not obliged to make commerce. We need to find the business organisation to be what we want and what tourists need.”
The president of the Associations Paysages du Champagne said many of the existing hotels and restaurants will need to be transformed in order to achieve this and training schemes are in place to improve hospitality in the region.
“UNESCO is the best agent to promote the place”, Cheval added. “You are never known enough. It has helped us in the value of the product and we must never stop promoting.”