by Anthony Goret
The SNELAC (Syndicat National des Espaces de Loisirs, d’Attractions et Culturels) is the French national union of recreational, amusement and cultural sites.
As a trade association we represent all kinds of family leisure sites within a closed space, including theme parks, recreational parks, water parks, animal parks, cultural and natural sites. Many of these sites also offer a variety of additional services such as accommodation, food and beverage, shops etc.
Our membership of more than 240 facilities includes such attractions as Disneyland Resort Paris, Parc Astérix, Futuroscope, Grand Parc du Puy du Fou, the Eiffel Tower, Musée du Luxembourg, but also some small local companies all around France which together attract over 70 million visitors per year.
The main mission of the SNELAC is to defend the interests of our industry at government and European Union level and to provide training, technical support, promotion, communication and business liaison for our members.
Visiting an amusement park or attraction is one of the safest leisure activities available and that’s down to a relentless focus on safety in every aspect of our members’ businesses. It is an essential issue, which needs to be considered in order to have a sustainable operation, and for the good of the whole sector.
Yet whilst safety is critical, we are also in the business of selling “dreams” and so it is important every employee is trained to offer the best experience to visitors, and share the happiness of the operator. In turn management must adhere to the labour code and various regulatory constraints to ensure that, even though we are a seasonal industry, all issues are covered in relationship to healthcare, personal protection cover, salary scale etc. To assist with this, SNELAC negotiates a collective branch agreement with national employee unions.
Seasonal work often attracts young people without much education, and it is the industry’s duty to train these employees and offer them new opportunities. The SNELAC creates a professional qualification certificate, a diploma that is recognised by the French Ministry of Labour. For some people it is the first diploma of their life, which is great for the SNELAC but also for society and young people in general.
French habits in relation to travel, leisure and entertainment are changing. People still go on holidays, but they are of shorter duration and closer to home. For most SNELAC members, 77% of their visitors come from nearby (within two hours), except for water parks and aquariums which are generally located in tourist locations. On balance, we can say the last economic crisis did not affect the sector.
However, we cannot stand still. We are still a young market, even within Europe. The arrival of the major players in the early ‘90s improved the offer and public expectations, but today we are faced with free competition from cultural shows, festivals and activities, as well as sporting events, shopping malls and big shops. Many of these products act as a potential substitute to the leisure park offer, providing family entertainment and a change of scenery, and could become serious competitors in future. Parks have to invest. The renewal of amusement venues will generate more visits and repeat visits.
There is at least one major obstacle in our way. Since the start of 2013, the TVA (Taxe sur la Valeur Ajoutée, or value added tax) rate for hospitality, ticketing and catering businesses has risen from 5.5% to 7% and is expected to rise to 10% in 2014. These changes could really affect the tourism and leisure industry in France. The psychological effect of the inevitable price rises would affect attendance, and ultimately investment in new attractions would slow down. The SNELAC is working hard to demonstrate to government that it is not in the interests of the French administration to raise TVA rates further, and in fact that a the new lower rate of 5% would make more sense.
In conclusion, the French leisure and attractions industry is doing well. The market is still conducive to quality entertainment, but in the future many challenges are awaiting operators within the sector. The SNELAC will be there by its members’ side to accompany and support them every step of the way.
Anthony Goret is official spokesperson for SNELAC