Untitled Document

19 Jan 2018 Attractions Management Handbook
 

HOME
VIEW DIGITAL EDITION
CONTENTS
PROFILES
BUY HANDBOOK
JOBS
NEWS
BLOG
PRODUCTS
ADVERTISE
CONTACT US
Sign up for FREE ezine
Current issue
Attractions Management Handbook
Current issue

View this issue online
Buy print edition
Download PDF

Previous issues
Attractions Management Handbook
2015 issue

View issue contents
View this issue online
Download PDF
Attractions Management Handbook
2014 issue

View issue contents
View this issue online
Download PDF
Attractions Management Handbook
2013 issue

View issue contents
View this issue online
Download PDF
Attractions Management Handbook
2012 issue

View issue contents
View this issue online
Download PDF
Attractions Management Handbook
2011 issue

View issue contents
View this issue online
Attractions Management Handbook
2010 issue

View issue contents
View this issue online
Attractions Management Handbook - Nicolas de Villiers

Interview

Nicolas de Villiers


The president of the award-winning historical theme park Puy du Fou in France discusses what makes the concept so attractive to new markets, and how plans are progressing with partners in Russia and China

Nicolas de Villiers, president of the Puy du Fou theme park in the Vendée, France, is eyeing new opportunities
Puy du Fou features a Roman Centurion Show
Puy du Fou features a Vikings Grand Show
Puy du Fou features a Vikings Grand Show
Puy du Fou’s Philippe de Villiers (left) signed a deal with Vladimir Putin in August 2014
Puy du Fou partnered with Efteling theme park in the Netherlands to create the Raveleijn Show

Puy du Fou was founded by Philippe de Villiers, father of the theme park’s current president Nicolas de Villiers, in 1978. As one of France’s most popular attractions, which welcomes 1.5 million visitors a year, its success is beginning to go global.

New partnerships are being formed with Puy du Fou International, as investors sign up to use the park’s expertise and knowhow to create unique variations of the concept tailored to individual sites.

Puy du Fou announced in 2014 it had signed a deal to work with entrepreneur Jonathan Ruffer, to create Puy du Fou’s first international location at Auckland Castle in County Durham, UK. The first phase, which is an 80-minute nighttime show in the style of the Cinéscénie at Puy du Fou, is set to open in 2016.

The company is also working on a US$500m (£324m, €458m) park in the Moscow region of Russia with billionaire Konstantin Malofeev, due to open in 2017. A second park is planned for the Crimea. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a deal in August 2014 with Puy du Fou International to secure the plans for the two parks in the country. According to Philippe de Villiers – French politician and leader of the Movement for France party – signing the protocol marked “the start of developing two historical theme parks that aim to highlight Russia’s history and the significance of Russia’s soul.”

Nicolas de Villiers brought Attractions Management Handbook up to date.

Why did you decide to grow the Puy du Fou brand?
For a few years we’ve been approached by people from all over the world asking us to create attractions based on the model of the Puy du Fou in France, but showing the culture and history of their own countries. We get about two enquiries a week, and we’ve had requests from as far away as Kenya, Cambodia, Brazil and Chile. I realised that there was a demand to adapt our artistic model to other cultures, so I created Puy du Fou International to create parks and shows abroad.

How do you decide who to work with?
We have criteria to help us determine who’s a serious potential partner: one who has means and money as well as ideas.

The first step is a one-month feasibility study. We send out a team – the partner pays – and this helps us determine whether the project and partner are right for us. The next step is the design of the masterplan and business plan. Then we move into more detailed plans – the architectural drawings, the landscaping, the décor, the performers and the animals.

We build the project, train the staff and write the story. In our projects in Russia and the UK, we’re following this methodology. Puy du Fou manages every aspect, but we’re not investors and we don’t put a single euro into projects abroad.

Are you planning a project in China?
For now, China is just a discussion. There are several interested potential partners. Any partner we work with has to accept our methodology: we need to agree on the budget, and on the staff. Moreover, we need to agree on the content.

Can you explain the creative inspiration?
We approach a number of historians in the search for good stories: a love story, a spectacular event, drama, miracles. In Russia, the scripts mix fact with legendary characters to make an original show.

So the content doesn’t have to be completely historically accurate?
We’re not teachers and we don’t want to teach people history. We want to educate and entertain at the same time. We’ve written the script for Durham and our partners are happy with it. In Moscow, the script will be based on Russian history and in Crimea it’ll be based on Byzantine history. Everyone’s fascinated by Russia because it’s a compelling culture.

Is it challenging working in the Crimea?
Historically speaking, Crimea was Russian for centuries. It’s complex and we can’t judge. Now Crimea is Russian again. We hope our scheme can provide a peaceful means to help people find their identity, and also be an economic driver.

Have you signed a deal with President Putin?
Yes, we met him. It was wonderful and completely unexpected. When he found out that we wanted to set up a park in Crimea, he wanted to encourage this kind of initiative and wanted to see us.

We took a plane to Crimea to meet him and it was an amazing experience.

What’s he like?
He’s different from how we expected. He has sweet eyes and sweet words. He’s very attentive. He says kind things to put you at ease. He’s relaxed.

The European media show him as a serious guy who never laughs, but that’s not the case.

You’ve also worked with Efteling in the Netherlands?
We created a show for Efteling and we’ve had a team of 40 there for two years.

What’s the commercial arrangement?
The partner is in charge of the financial aspect, and they pay us not only for the brand but also for our team of staff. We bring the knowhow. We don’t bring money.

If you had to sum up the genius of the Puy du Fou, how would you explain it?
It’s original and totally different from other parks. We invent everything. Authenticity is one of our strengths. The materials and décor are real, the birds and horses are real. If we want an elephant, we find a real elephant – we won’t have Dumbo. We believe in stories and storytelling. We believe in emotion – another main ingredient in the philosophy of Puy du Fou.

People everywhere are trying to discover their own identities in reaction to the American model that has taken over the world. Puy du Fou is about roots and against globalisation. You’re not just a citizen of the world, you’re from somewhere – that’s our message.

We fight against consumerism by not having aggressive merchandising. Puy du Fou has one village for merchandising, which you can go to or avoid. You don’t have to spend a euro in the park if you don’t want to. You can bring a picnic. Of course, people buy a coffee or ice cream, so we don’t lose money. We just earn less money than we could. Our turnover is small in comparison with other parks with the same attendance, but that’s not a problem. Nobody gets rich from the profits and that’s our philosophy. I can look our staff in the eyes because if I work, if they work, everybody works and all the benefits of our work will be reinvested into Puy du Fou; not into a car for the boss.

We don’t look at business with an American logic. It’s not just about making money. It’s about making a great painting about our history and our people. And now we can do the same in other countries.


Originally published in Attractions Handbook 2015 issue 1

Published by The Leisure Media Company, Portmill House, Portmill Lane, Hitchin, Herts SG5 1DJ. Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385 | Contact us | About us | Advertise | © Cybertrek Ltd