This year sees a flood of events across Europe to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War and the 75th anniversary of the start of the Second World War. In June, there were of course the commemorations of the D-Day landings seventy years ago — a wartime anniversary which was marked with great dignity in a series of ceremonies, many of them well away from the crowds. There was something inspiring about those scenes from French beaches where, in the soft sunshine of a June evening, members of the Normandy Veterans Association marched for the last time. The numbers of surviving veterans dwindle year by year, so the Association says that those memorial events in June marked the end of the road for their now all-too-frail fraternity.
But what of mere mortals, ordinary folk like you and I, who want to be part of the action? Or part of the events that memorialise the action? Last month, many thousands of visitors packed into small towns along the Normandy coast and watched mass parachute jumps, firework displays and parades of vintage military vehicles. There was also a public picnic of biblical proportions on Omaha Beach. The local tourist authorities had gone to great lengths to woo visitors to Normandy but, knowing of course that there would be no opportunity for those visitors to take part in the official ceremonies, they therefore provided alternative diversions.
For tourist authorities, as indeed for individual hoteliers, a key anniversary gives wonderful impetus to marketing campaigns and is thus all the more welcome when the timing of the event extends the normal flow of high-summer visitors into the shoulder season.
Europe is awash with events which pander to the needs of homo touristicus.