June 24, 2024

Interview with Normandy's Tourism Board Director, Michael Dodds

"The list of hidden gems is endless," says Michael Dodds, Normandy's Tourism Board Director, during our recent interview. We discussed various topics, including the recent D-Day celebrations, lesser-known sites in Normandy, and the challenges of pursuing sustainable tourism.

With the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings behind us, how did Normandy commemorate such milestone? Can you share any highlights or special events? 

The significance of this event gave Normandy unprecedented media attention. Our aim was to involve the entire Normandy population in welcoming the veterans and all the international visitors. We encouraged Normandy’s younger population to participate in the commemorations. Normandy was and continues to be associated with the message of liberty and peace transmitted from generation to generation. 

Apart from the official international commemoration, over 380 commemorative events between June and September were officially approved by the Regional Council and included in the Normandy 80th anniversary official programme. The two-week period of the D-Day Festival, with various parades, flypasts, film shows, lectures, and concerts, drew the most visitors. Moreover, the Region organised a large-scale simultaneous firework display across all the coastal towns along the D-Day Landing beaches on the evening of June 1st. The greeting of American veterans flying with Delta Airlines direct from Atlanta to Deauville by Normandy school children was also a highlight. 

The fact that the Normandy Region is also organising its 6th World Peace Forum at the Abbaye aux Dames in Caen between the 26th and 27th of September is particularly poignant given the current situation in Ukraine, Gaza, and other areas of tension across the world. 

Normandy is renowned for its remembrance tourism, attracting millions of visitors each year. Aside from the iconic D-Day sites, what other lesser-known remembrance sites or experiences would you recommend for tourists seeking a deeper understanding of the region's wartime history and the Battle of Normandy?  

Some of the most popular D-Day sites such as the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, la Pointe du Hoc, the German cemetery at La Cambe, Sainte-Mère-Eglise, Pegasus Bridge and the Memorial de Caen Museum are all must see sites and the educational approach at the Juno Beach Museum sets high standards.  

However, there have been several more recent initiatives that are well worth a visit. 

The Museum dedicated to telling the civilian story during the Battle of Normandy at Falaise, for example, filled a very important gap in our appreciation of what the Norman population had to go through. In addition, the new D-Day Museum at Arrromanches brilliantly tells the story of the artificial Mulberry harbour at Gold Beach and its vital role in offloading cargo to support the troops.

The new British Memorial at Ver-sur-Mer will also very quickly establish itself as a must-see site. The installation of 1,475 silhouettes of British soldiers between the Memorial and the beach by the charity “Standing with Giants” is also very moving. 

Beyond WWII remembrance, Normandy offers a diverse range of cultural, natural, and culinary attractions. Can you share some unique experiences or hidden gems that tourists should not overlook when visiting the region?  

In addition to the D-Day landing beaches, Normandy is known throughout the world for the Mont-Saint-Michel, the Etretat cliffs, Claude Monet’s house at Giverny, the Honfleur fishing port and the chic Deauville seaside resort.  

The list of hidden gems is endless: the rolling hills of the Perche, spectacular Norman Abbeys, picturesque villages and gardens, National Horse studs, the meanders of the Seine river, the spectacular “Suisse normande” or the wild beaches of the Manche, etc. 

On top of these places, there are the local food and drinks: Cider makers, calvados distilleries, …and the joys of fresh produce at the local markets. 


Normandy's landscapes and villages are often celebrated for their beauty. How does the tourism board promote sustainable tourism practices to ensure the preservation of these natural and cultural treasures for future generations? 

We are clearly committed to developing and promoting sustainable tourism which is a long-term and at times complicated process, but we move forward step by step. For example, we are currently exploring ways of measuring the carbon footprint of Normandy’s visitors and encouraging the use of public transport whenever we can (you can find a dedicated section on our website: “Normandy Without Your Car”. Moreover, inspired by the example of the Juno Beach visitor centre, we have recently introduced a low carbon admission price at a range of sites and attractions across the region.  Visitors able to provide proof of using public transport or bike are rewarded by a reduced entry price to the site!

The Regional Council is also currently testing a D-Day Line Bus service for visitors across the coas and experimentation in 2024 continues with the introduction of an “Explore Normandy Pass” encouraging visitors to visit a broader range of memorial sites across Normandy.  

Finally, the last twenty years have seen enormous investment in cycle routes crisscrossing the region and linking Normandy to a European network of cycling itineraries. More information can be found on our website


In recent years, there has been a growing interest in experiential tourism and immersive historical experiences. How does Normandy innovate in providing visitors with engaging and meaningful experiences that go beyond traditional museum visits? 

For several years, we have dedicated ourselves to creating immersive experiences that enrich visitors and deepen their understanding of Normandy. By firsthand analysis and testing improvements to the visitor experience, we have not only elevated the quality of our tourism offerings but also provided the region with a fantastic showcase of Normandy's best. On the theme of remembrance tourism, you can explore Omaha Beach on a bike, follow in the footsteps of Canadian soldiers at Juno Beach, discover the Mulberry Harbour by sea kayak, and go behind the scenes to uncover unseen collections at both the Airborne Museum and the Memorial de Caen Museums. For more details on these unique experiences, visit Normandie Tourisme.  

Looking ahead, what exciting developments or initiatives can visitors expect from Normandy in the coming years, both in terms of commemorating WWII history and enhancing the overall tourist experience? 

Beyond the offers I described before (D-Day Line, low carbon admission price and the Explore Normandy Pass) we also plan to emulate our neighbours in the Somme and extend the “Somme Battlefields for Peace” initiative to Normandy. This initiative aims to promote meaningful tourism and support countries affected by the war. Collecting funds from visitors to support Handicap International and the victims of anti-personnel mines in areas of conflict is a fantastic way to offer our tourists a meaningful experience while at the same time promoting peace and liberty.

We also want to encourage school trips to visit this region. Therefore, we plan to adapt our accommodation offer to better serve this purpose. We hope to attract many young people to better learn the history of Normandy.  

2027 will see Normandy further increase its profile internationally as we will celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the birth of Willliam the Conqueror. This will allow our tourists to explore links with the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands, Southern Italy, Sicily and potentially Denmark and Norway!