In Lourdes, Mayor Thierry Lavit believes in more diversified tourism

To present his action plan supposed to save his city, Thierry Lavit, mayor of Lourdes, likes to take height. From the top of the fortified castle of Roman origin, the elected 59-year-old, with a square jaw and a sharp gaze, sings his plans to revitalize a city deserted by the faithful since the start of the pandemic. “The pilgrim must become a tourist”, he likes to repeat. To better attract followers of hikes, small or large, he has an idea for a path that he traces from the top of his promontory. He wants to create a “Medieval path”, starting from the imposing sanctuary to the top of this fort, former residence of the counts of Bigorre, with a view of the Pyrenees.

Elected without a label in June 2020, Thierry Lavit saw, that year, hotel reservations fall by 84% and municipal revenues linked to the tourist tax fall by 3 million euros, in 2019, to 300,000 euros. For 2021, hotel reservations should not take off, according to the tourist office. With the approach of the national pilgrimage of the Assumption of August 15, the streets are sparse.

“We have to improve in terms of quality, that’s what all the operators advocate”, explains Thierry Lavit.

A stone’s throw from the Les Brancardiers café, the Passage Saint-Louis is dotted with shops with drawn curtains. Only the Hotel La Solitude remained open. However, Thierry Lavit does not despair. The chosen one, who is teeming with ideas, has brought them together in the “Lourdes, horizon 2030” project. He intends to finance them with the 120 million euros that the national recovery plan devotes to the disaster city. Some 11 million euros are already planned for the renovation of the castle and its Pyrenean Museum.

The mayor would first like to dust off the image of the city. Hotels in particular, of which he knows “The viscera and the state of mind”, after having taken the plunge in his youth. “We must improve in quality, this is what all the operators advocate”, he explains. As for the shops, which sell the pilgrims statuettes of the Virgin and other objects of piety, a little updating would not hurt. “When I arrived in January, I lifted two or three objects: the prices were still displayed in francs”, remembers Mélanie Santailler, project manager responsible for reviving tourism.

A MTB World Cup

To attract new customers, the town hall is betting on the Altamonta label, offered since 2014 to a few establishments wishing to welcome customers who have come to Lourdes to practice mountain biking. The peak of Jer, which, at 951 meters, overlooks the town, was it not selected to host the Downhill Mountain Biking World Cup, in March 2022? As part of the recovery plan, the city is organizing its first Estivales this summer (in partnership with the Sanctuary), offering concerts and shows. Singer Vianney, who has never hidden his Catholic faith, performed there on July 9. On the program, the same day, the Patrouille de France overflight of the basilica.

You have 62.11% of this article to read. The rest is for subscribers only.