The Brenne Regional Natural Park (Parc naturel régional de la Brenne), located in the historic Loire Valley region, France, decided to support the locals during the difficult times of the Covid-19 pandemic. They came up with a great initiative - to open an online store of local goods and services.
EcoTourism Expert spoke with the Brenne Nature Park Tourism Manager Géraldine Chancel to find out more about the platform and how an online store can support small businesses.
- How did you come up with the idea of opening your trading platform on the Internet?- We are all going through a difficult time. Now, during the period of the lockdown and quarantine because of the coronavirus many enterprises and shops in France had to stop production and close their doors. It seemed important to us to support local trade, thus, we decided to create a trading platform on which they could sell and present their products.
Moreover, we provide not only financial support, but also moral support.
- What are you trying to say?
- Placing their products on the platform many farmers and entrepreneurs are perked up as they see that there are still customers, and they are interested in their services and products.
- What exactly do you offer on the platform?
- The products are very diverse: these are vouchers for hairdressers, cyclists, gourmet shops, bookstores, clothing stores. We provide the opportunity to buy vouchers from those boutiques that are currently closed.
Many people buy vouchers and then exchange them or offer them as a gift. And after the quarantine is over, people will be able to take advantage of already purchased services. Moreover, the store also allows you to pay for goods and services that, for example, are not available for sale directly in some stores.
- Do you arrange the delivery?
- The principle is as follows - after the service is paid and the goods are purchased, the manufacturer gets in contact with the client and arranges delivery.
Our initiative reinforces some existing services of this kind, such as the service of the local cheese boutique Maison du Fromage, which delivers the famous goat cheese Pouligny-Saint-Pierre made by local producers.
- And how does the delivery service work? Is it possible to order goods in Russia, for example?
- The main purpose of the online store is to promote local products locally only. However, some entrepreneurs arrange delivery abroad. For example, Maison du Fromage (https://maisondufromage.fr). They sell goat cheese, as well as other local products: honey, wine, herbal teas and much more.
- I understand that the online boutique offers products from regional manufacturers, but does the platform still exist on behalf of the park?
- Yes, that's right.
- Then could you, please, specify if there are any benefits the park?
- All sales revenue will go to the merchants and manufacturers.
The online service provider, the bank and the Office of Tourism that ensures the legal structure take no commission. This is indeed a solidarity operation and not commercial.
- How exactly can promoting local products help the local community?
- The Brenne Regional Natural Park is not only rich in nature.
It’s also an area with small farms and local producers who also maintain the landscapes. Helping producers to get through this difficult period is to provide assistance and help them to continue their activity and keep this network of farmers and peasants. It’s important for their families but also for a tourist area like ours as our main assets are the landscapes and the extraordinary biodiversity.
- What other ideas do you have for promoting your natural park during the global Covid-19 pandemic?
- We need to dream more. We cannot leave the house, but we are free in spirit. We try to come up with cultural events for different ages. We are currently working with music animators, as well as with an animal photographer who lives in Brenne, Nicolas van Ingen. Together with him we are creating a video about Brenne - this is a video trip through the park accompanied by African music.
- Why African?
- The answer is simple! The symbol of Brenne is a whiskered tern. This is a migratory bird that winters in Africa, and in spring returns to Brenne to nest in our swamps, thereby ensuring sustainable growth of this species.
We really hope that tourists will also return to our lands soon... following our tern.