Monday, November 15, 2010

Biarritz Tourism in the Media-Khanh Tran

Victor Hugo once said, “ I know of no other place more charming and magnificent than Biarritz.” The author is not alone in his adoration for Biarritz, for many before and after him have discovered the same allure and fascination of this small town in Basque Country, a region in southwest France. Since the 1950s, vacationers from far and wide have flocked to Biarritz for its abundant sunshine and pristine beaches, making it one of the most sought after tourist destinations. However, Biarritz’s touristic success is largely attributed to the sporting activities that dominate the culture and lifestyle of the coastal town. Media that promotes Biarritz tourism typically focuses attention on it being the ideal location for surfing, golfing, and other out-door activities. This fusion of tourism and sports in the media illustrates how Biarritz is presented as a destination that is appealing to a wide range of individuals who seek both leisure and thrill.

Historically, Biarritz began attracting the rich and famous to its coast in the mid-nineteenth century. In 1854 Napoleon III commissioned a luxurious summer home to be built on the beach of Biarritz for his wife, Empress Eugénie. The estate is now known as the Hotel du Palais, one of the most beautiful and grandeur hotels in the world. Thereafter, other royalty and aristocracy followed suite and soon Biarritz was transformed into a vacation getaway for the elite. Sports first appeared in Biarritz when a group of Englishmen created the Biarritz le Phare in 1888, Europe’s second oldest golf course (Etcheverry 14). Then in 1956, Biarritz was hit its biggest discovery to date. While shooting the film The Sun Also Rises, American screenwriter Peter Viertel discovered the glorious and majestic waves of Côte des Basques beach. An avid surfer in Hawaii and California, Viertel decided to put the waves to the test and became the first to introduce the sport of surfing to Europe. Although Biarritz was featured in Surfer Magazine in the 1960s and 1970s, surfing remained a fairly marginal sport in the area until the late 1980s when began gaining full popularity (Crumley 27). Today, surfing is an essential element of the culture and lifestyle of Biarritz where nearly everyone can be caught with a surfboard clutched under their arm. As a result, it is expected that Biarritz tourism media should focus on the promotion of this key characteristic of the region.

Presently, there is an entire industry aimed at advertising the Basque coast’s reputation as the surfing capital of Europe. Surfing schools are numerous throughout the region, catering to surfers of all levels of experience. The majority of these schools promote the idea that tourists can easily incorporate a couple hours of surfing lessons into a traditional day’s worth of sightseeing. Prices and durations of lessons range widely from each school. For example, the Plums Surf School, one of the oldest surf school in Biarritz, offers lessons for adults that start inexpensively from just 35 for a single-day lesson to 300 for a five-day extensive course (

Moreover, many surf schools in Biarritz offer inclusive accommodations, as well as, other services for tourists in order to promote a hassle-free and relaxing vacation experience in Biarritz. For instance, the Biarritz Paradise Surf School offers a weeklong training course that includes convenient accommodations and transportation services from and to the train station or airport ( Comparatively, the Biarritz Surf and Bodyboard School allows tourists to stay in their charming loft style house that operates similarly to a bed and breakfast ( Both of the surf schools also present to their clients access to yoga classes and spa treatments. The advertisements for these comprehensive and fulfilling vacation packages in Biarritz all trace back to the importance of the town’s surfing culture as their foundation. Therefore, it is clearly evident that the sport of surfing contributes significantly to the success of Biarritz tourism.

In addition to surf schools, Biarritz tourism also benefits from the surf festival held annually on the Côte des Basques. The Biarritz Surf Festival, which is held during the middle of July every year, brings together professional surfers from around the world to compete on its sandy beaches. This famous weeklong summer event, which started in 1993, also attracts hordes of tourists, with an estimated 150,000 people in attendance in 2010 ( The most prestigious competition of this five-day festival is the Roxy Jam Biarritz ASP Longboard World Championships. This competition, which began in 2006, features thirty-two of the world’s best female surfers, thus making it the biggest and most important longboard event for women. Along with the exciting competition, the festival also draws in tourists with the showcase of art exhibitions and musical concerts ( However, due to the importance of surfing in Biarritz, it comes as no surprise that media representations of this high-profiled event is centered around the beach and surfing.

While surfing is indeed the focal point of attraction that lures tourists from all ends of the world to Biarritz, it is important not to overlook other sporting activities that also respectfully contribute to its proliferation of tourism. As previously mentioned, the founding of the Biarritz le Phare golf course in 1888 made Biarritz a historically important site for golf. Currently, the golf course still possesses a prestigious reputation, hosting many international competitions yearly ( However, Biarritz le Phare is only one out of the ten sprawling golf courses in the coastal town today. Therefore, Biarritz tourism has greatly taken advantage of the plethora of these golf courses by highly promoting the Biarritz Golf Pass, a pass that provides access to six of the region’s most beautiful courses ( Aiming to instantly draw in golf-lovers, the logo for the pass informs tourists the enticing golf courses they can tee off at during their visit to Biarritz. This adds to the illustration of the chief employment of sports in tourism media to lure in potential vacation seekers.
Tourism has become a staple aspect of French society. The period between the 1930s to the 1970s was a critical time for the development of tourism in France, “establishing vacations as a political right, elaborating more democratic means of access, and proliferating images of the pleasures and promises of the vacation experience” (Furlough 283). Furthermore, with the founding of Club Med, the idea of the aesthetically beautiful and leisurely vacation site was highlighted and became a focus (Furlough 280). Hence, although sports significantly contribute to the prosperity of Biarritz tourism, the quintessential location and pleasing climate of the town are big factors as well. Biarritz tourism media shows how the prominent cultural aspect of sports, especially surfing, is combined with location and climate to create dynamic campaigns. As a result, the hybrid of tourism and sports has made Biarritz a prime destination for both sightseers and thrill-seekers.

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