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Managing Rural Tourism in Corsica: How to Move from Competition to Complementarity. Discussion on the LEADER Program

Caroline Tafani
Cet article est une traduction de :
Le management du tourisme rural en Corse : des concurrences aux complémentarités. Acteurs, territoires et stratégies [fr]


En Corse, le tourisme rural relève d’une compétence éclatée, adossée aussi bien aux institutions en charge de l’agriculture et de la ruralité que de celles du tourisme. Secteur trans-sectoriel et multi-acteurs par nature, mais aussi domaine économique connu pour l’atomicité de son offre, le tourisme rural est aujourd’hui l’objet focal des stratégies de développement portées par les Groupes d’Action locale dans le cadre du programme LEADER. Ainsi, si, au-delà des concurrences entre institutions et des lignes de partage affichées, LEADER s’empare de la question du développement touristique sur ses territoires d’action, on peut espérer du programme qu’il se pose en rassembleur des initiatives locales et qu’il favorise l’émergence d’une offre innovante, structurée et lisible pour la destination. C’est au travers d’une étude descriptive et empirique que nous discutons ici du management du tourisme rural en Corse avec pour focus spécifique le rôle du programme LEADER comme intégrateur sociospatial de stratégies dispersées.

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  • 1 DATA: INSEE, 2015.

1In Corsica, a real “mountain in the sea” (Ratzel, 1899), rurality is at the heart of local development policies: it is the most sparsely populated territory in mainland France (39 inh. /Km²), an area with very little urbanisation (the rate of soil artificialisation is less than 3% compared to 96% for green spaces and agricultural areas) and a land of agro-pastoralism where the activity employs barely 5% of the working population and represents 3 to 5% of the wealth produced on the territory, while tourism is more than dominant (nearly 31% of GDP)1. Corsica is also a region that is experimenting with a slightly more advanced form of decentralisation than elsewhere on the continent. Benefiting from a particular status since 1982 and the Deferre laws, a status that has been revised many times, the organisation of its territory and the distribution of related competences may still seem somewhat original in the metropolitan landscape, although the Corsican exception tends not to be as singular as one might imagine, given that the competences of the other metropolitan regions are, from now on, quite similar to those of the island. However, Corsica still benefits from a territorial organisation that remains specific, an organisation where agricultural and rural issues are dealt with in their own right, so to speak, by its Office of Agricultural and Rural Development of Corsica (ODARC), an agency of the Corsican Authority (CdC). However, if on the surface, things are well segmented and competences clearly established, the reality is much more complex than it appears at first glance. This is what we can see when we look at the question of rural tourism management on the territory, a cross-cutting field that concerns both the tourism sector and the actors of the agri-rurality sector. The ambition of this article is to show how the LEADER programme (Links between Economic and Rural Development Actions), through a strategy of complementarity with other local development actions, attempts to make rural tourism a shared competence between operators. The empirical study proposed here describes how rural tourism has become a focal point of the development strategies carried out by the Local Action Groups in the framework of the LEADER programme, in a relatively complex institutional landscape and within a fabric of scattered and sometimes dispersed actors. We show how these LEADER strategies tend to make the territories converge around a concerted and assumed strategy of tourist development of the territories. Rural tourism is seen as an opportunity for the development of many landlocked territories, as it is a means of decompartmentalising territories and integrating socio-spatial areas (coastal/mountain). To shed light on these debates, our analysis is based (1) firstly on the processing of secondary data sources, namely the LEADER application files examined as part of our participation in the group of experts (summer 2015) for the 2014–2020 mandate, which was finally contracted for the 2017–2022 period, and (2) on the analysis of strategic documents and public policies available on the territory (ATC roadmap, ODARC’s Authentic Senses Route strategy). It is also based on a series of semi-structured interviews conducted with the LEADER strategy holders (territory coordinators) in five of the six LAGs selected by the Corsican Authority.

The Management of Rural Tourism in Corsica, a Fragmented Competence

Tourism Development in Rural Areas: A Collective Strategy

A Strong Political Will

  • 2 The interior of Corsica often refers to mountainous territories, as opposed to the coastline.

2As part of a developmentalist vision that considers tourism to be a “necessary evil”, rural tourism is now presented by local authorities as an essential lever for economic growth and as a support for development that cannot be ignored. Illustrating this vision of territorial development, the Plan for the Development and Sustainability of Corsica (PADDUC) voted in October 2015 recalls that “the interior of Corsica2 is a territory with a particularly high tourist potential. The architectural quality of the villages and the natural and cultural heritage, the local know-how, the art of living and the quality of the welcome are real factors of differentiation and attractiveness of the Corsican destination” (PADDUC: PADD, p. 126) and in this sense, “the environmental and landscape capital of the interior must be mobilised in the service of the local development of the territories” (PADDUC: Mountain Plan). In other words, it is advisable to “revitalise the rural interior spaces: these spaces contribute to conveying the image of a preserved island and offer wide possibilities of valorisation. The rural, or inland, must be looked at in a new light today” (PADDUC: Mountain Plan). And it is with this in mind that since the 1980s, Corsica has been committed to a tourism development strategy that aims for quality rather than quantity. Indeed, this ambition is not new: After experiencing exponential tourist development (120,000 tourists in 1960 and 1.2 million in 1980), and if tourist growth has continued unabated to reach some 3 million tourists for approximately 330,000 inhabitants today (INSEE, 2015), Corsica wished very early to embark on a “qualitative shift” (Moretti, 2006) recognising the “identity economy” (Taddei and Antomarchi, 1997) as a prerequisite for, and as the basis of, any attempt to valorise places. This is the choice that local actors have defended rather than an urban-tourist economy of immediate rent (Levratto, 2001), which enshrines a “harvesting tourism” (Furt and Maupertuis, 2006) for which the smallest parcel of “natural” land located on the seafront allows maximum profit to be made from the over-frequentation during the summer months with minimal investment in resources.

The Territorial Quality Rent as a Model

  • 3 Vin de l’Île de Beauté, Kiwi, Pomelo, Clémentine, Noisette de Cervioni, Charcuterie de l’Île-de-Bea (...)
  • 4 9 in wine and spirits (Corsica, Patrimonio, Calvi, Ajaccio, Sartène, Figari, Porto-Vecchio, Cap Cor (...)

3Since then, the local intelligentsia has been working to support a strategy of territorial quality rent (Mollard et al., 2005) that enhances local identity and heritage: the collective construction of specific rural amenities of the territory (local products, rural landscapes, quality environment, etc.) should make it possible to better distribute the tourism gains and the added value thus created throughout the production-marketing chain, from the small local producer to the restaurant or hotel owner. Using the example of the Baronnies, Moalla and Mollard (2011) have clearly shown that the subjective representations that consumers have of a quality local environment play a positive role in a price differential favourable to the environmental amenities of tourist products and services. It is therefore a question of local operators capturing this supposed price differential. As much a supplier of environmental and cultural public goods as a consumer of them, rural tourism functions, on the one hand, as an operator of comparative advantages based on fixed and anchored production factors (Pecqueur, 2006), and, on the other hand, as an integrator of the demand for amenities, with external demand acting as a multiplier of demand by capturing exogenous income to compensate for the non-existence or narrowness of the local consumption basin (Hirczak et al., 2008). Furthermore, it has been shown that the perceived authenticity of local products (particularly food products) is stronger among tourists than among resident consumers, which confers more value on the product consumed (Lenglet and Giannelloni, 2012). Thus, in Corsica as in many other territories, the gastronomic argument as a vector of tourist appeal (DeMyttaneare, 2011) is very widely used by local actors to construct the destination offer: selling the terroir makes it possible to constitute a site offer incorporated into a basket of territorialized goods and services (Pecqueur, 2011). It is in this context that local producers very quickly and very widely engaged in quality procedures, going as far as the recognition of the anchorage of their products by Signs of Identification of Quality and Origin (SIQO), and this, with the official technical support of the actors in charge of agri-rural development in the territory (ODARC and other structures supporting local action, such as the INRA for example, which was very present and very invested in the labelling procedures). Thus, today there are no less than 6 Protected Geographical Indications3 and 16 Protected Designations of Origin4 on the island territory, like so many products spearheading quality rural tourism, emblematic of the region for locals as well as for tourists-consumers (Michon 2016). The role of local food production in the construction of a brand image and positive territorial representations has been demonstrated on many occasions (de Myttenaere, 2011; Lemasson, 2006; Bessière et al.; 2016, Etcheverria, 2016). And it is this strategy that the island territory intends to develop.

Figure 1: cover of the paper guide to the Authentic Senses Route (A strada di i Sensi di Corsica) (source:

Figure 1: cover of the paper guide to the Authentic Senses Route (A strada di i Sensi di Corsica) (source:

Source :

4From now on, it seems difficult to think of the development of tourism in any other way than through its connection with “identity” resources, i.e., local, anchored, heritage resources, whether they are natural and/or cultural. In this landscape, the terroir therefore has its card to play (Tafani, 2021) and strategies for valorising rural heritage are at the heart of local development projects, as in the case of Balagne, a small region located in the north-west of the island which has served as a pilot and experimental territory for this development path through quality and identity. However, although many actors are involved in this scheme, they do not all implement it in the same way, from strict “identity” preservation to attempts to “modernise” and dust off the heritage through innovation…

Enhancing the Value of the Territory Through Rural Tourism: A Shared Responsibility

A Fragmented Offer

5Not all the territorial actors share the same vision of how this strategy should be implemented in an operational manner, although, as we have seen in the agri-food sector, it has been a real collective success. In tourism, and especially in rural tourism, the strategies of entrepreneurs are as diverse as there are different products on the market. Agritourism, rural tourism, farm tourism, tourism in rural areas, the forms of tourism are similar to the services offered: they share the same basic elements (i.e., the provision of rural amenities) but differ from each other on the basis of the relationship between the agricultural world and the tourist sphere (Marcotte et al., 2006). Thus, an agritourism product based on a combination of farm accommodation, on-site catering and an educational visit or activity (such as a tasting or farm tour) is different from a simple rural accommodation offer, even if it is provided by a farmer. Indeed, if in the first case the agritourism enterprise can be considered as forming a whole in which the tourism services are hardly detachable from the agricultural production, in the second case, it can be clearly considered that for the farmer in question it is another job. In the second case, the farmer in question can clearly be considered to be involved in another occupation, complementary and juxtaposed, which is part of a pattern of pluriactivity in which the two spheres—agriculture and tourism—maintain a relationship of connection (Varennes, 2013) rather than a joint relationship in which the production of one serves the other directly, and vice versa. Thus, from the “farmer trader to the rural tourism entrepreneur” (Furt and Tafani, 2014), rural tourism takes on different forms to constitute a complex and diversified offer that corresponds to a certain segmentation of consumers who are more or less well informed or more or less in search of authenticity. From one scale to another, i.e., from the company to the territory, we can observe and analyse the division of labour and its organisation as a sustainable development issue for the territory where the guarantees of authenticity can be provided by the justification of the relationship of connection between agriculture and tourism, while the authenticity in question could be disguised by a lack of transparency on the origin of the raw materials and territorial resources incorporated into the productive system as a whole. In Corsica, the diversity of the offer is great and, despite all the efforts made to structure and organise it, it remains diffuse and rather dispersed, with the exception of a few specialised territories such as the wine-growing area of Patrimonio located at the foot of Cap-Corse in the northeast of the island. It is clear that the rural tourism offer (understood here in the sense of extended agritourism) is scattered over the surface of the territory, but that it remains “coastal” despite everything, concentrated in direct proximity to the coastal fringes, having difficulty penetrating the interior of the territory, where visitors for a day attempt an incursion during a multi-activity stay with a predominantly seaside feel (Ungureanu, 2017).

The Challenge of Structuring the Offer

6Even if we can identify, in Corsica too, several models of rural tourism that fall between two archetypes (Mazuel and Bonniot, 2011), which are the concentrated rural tourism model (organised in territorial clusters or localised tourist systems) and the diffuse model (characterised by a fragmented and scattered offer), it would seem that, in general, the concentrated model is often representative of a mono-specific offer of a territory (small wine-producing region) where the distances between the providers are reduced, which gives an overall coherence and makes it possible to really identify the product with the territory. In any case, this is what we observe on the island territory, in Patrimonio for example. And on this model, and in the image of the establishment of thematic heritage routes such as the “Authentic Senses Route”, recently reactivated by ODARC, to avoid too great a dispersion of the offer, several actors are emerging in the landscape who are working on this structuring of rural tourism. As briefly recalled in the introduction, since the Deferre laws of 1982, Corsica has benefited from a special status as a specific collectivity, a status enshrined in Article 72 of the Constitution, which was revised many times, particularly during the turning points of 1991 (“Joxe status”), 2000–2002 (Matignon Process with the “Jospin Statute”) and more recently 2015 thanks to the revision of the 1985 Mountain Law granting the island a “Mountain Island status” authorising it a financial extension for the management of specific problems in the interior, but also additional prerogatives and the possibility of establishing a tax-free zone in the mountains.

A Complex Institutional Landscape

  • 5 Corsican Agricultural and Rural Development Office, Corsican Tourism Agency, Corsican Economic Deve (...)

7In this particular institutional context, the Corsican Authority (CdC) is organised into several “management departments” which are its 7 offices and agencies5, including the ODARC which manages agricultural and rural issues. In charge of drawing up the Corsican Rural Development Plan (CRDP 2014–2020), the regional version of the European and national Rural Development Regulation, ODARC is the paying agency for the second pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) on the island. To this end, alongside the central services of the local authority—the management authority—it manages measures to diversify agriculture in rural areas, including the CRDP’s flagship measure 19, which concerns the implementation of the LEADER programme on the territory (see following figure).

Figure 2: simplified diagram of the LEADER application circuit (source: author)

Figure 2: simplified diagram of the LEADER application circuit (source: author)

Source : author

  • 6 European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
  • 7 European Regional Development Fund.
  • 8 The new version of the PNRC (Charter voted in 2018) includes half of the island municipalities (180 (...)
  • 9 The division proposed by the ATC is based on the logic of catchment areas.

8As ODARC is concerned with the management of agri-rural issues, the Corsican Tourism Agency (ATC) is concerned with everything related to the tourism sector. However, rural tourism is in itself a transversal, cross-sectoral object, which therefore concerns both of the two offices in question, not to mention the one that intervenes in the field of the protection and valorisation of heritage (Corsican Environment Office—OEC) or the other institutional actors present in the territory such as the Corsican Regional Natural Park (PNRC), an actor historically at the initiative of the precursory development of sustainable rural tourism in the island territory, as early as 1972. Thus, rural tourism is both the object of the policies of all these actors and at the centre of their roadmaps. But if the dividing lines are not always very clear and the interventions of one can short-circuit those of the other, each one trying to make the most of its own balance sheet, it is also an opportunity for the rural tourism sector to be supported here and there, insofar as the actors concerned can find multiple sources of financing, normally complementary, beyond the EAFRD6 alone, and therefore also from the ERDF7, via the ATC or the OEC (through measures to promote natural and cultural heritage). If the actors mentioned play a crucial role in the support of rural tourism projects and in the structuring of the offer, we cannot forget an actor such as the Corsican Regional Natural Park to speak about the dynamics of development of rural territories through tourism: Although it does not cover the entire island territory, since it is historically centred on the inland municipalities8, the PNRC is committed to developing, by territory of action (mountains, villages and rural areas, coastline), target actions with the ambition of “sustainable tourism based on identity, widely spread over the year and the territories. [The PNRC charter] contributes to this objective by supporting the development of nature-based activities while respecting the heritage and through the development of a tourist offer based on cultural heritage” (PNRC Charter, p. 82). Finally, the structuring of the tourist offer, whether it is standard or part of the rural tourism “sector”, benefits from the support and involvement of municipal or inter-municipal tourist offices in the logic of the operation of the offices of poles desired by the ATC: in order to best organise tourist visits in each of the micro-regions9 of Corsica, each territory is led by a leader, most often the most developed inter-communal office, that of the centre town of the living area. As agents for the promotion and organisation of holidays, the offices intervene in support of the regional policy but also develop, as close as possible to the territories, promotional actions in support of the flagship projects which are deployed there. In this way, the projects supported under the LEADER programme can find a necessary and useful communication channel via the tourist offices.

LEADER, an Exemplary Programme for the Development of Rural Tourism?

LEADER, a Major Player in the Implementation of Rural Tourism in Corsica

LEADER, an Arena for the Structuring of Rural Tourism in the Territory

9Over and above the latent divisions and declared dividing lines, the LEADER rural development programme, which is intended to be cross-sectoral, multi-partner and in phase with the needs of the territories, may appear here as a possible integrator of the dynamics at work, activating all the political levers at its disposal. By redefining the “spaces of public action”, LEADER represents “a more or less considerable upheaval in the administration and management practices of rural territories”, engaging local actors in a process of territorialisation of public action (Chevalier, 2014:11). Given the specific characteristics of the programme, LEADER emerges here as an interesting arena for the effective implementation of rural tourism projects for at least three reasons, referring to the famous trinity of LDLA (Local Development by—and for—Local Actors): the combination of an ad hoc strategy carried and implemented by motivated and concerned actors in clearly defined territories enables the lever of local development to be triggered in a perspective of sustainability and respect for the major objectives set out by the European Commission’s 2020 strategy, namely gender equality, inclusive, sustainable and intelligent growth, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation of climate change, and preservation of heritage.

10Responding to the major strategic objectives of the EAFRD for 2020, socially, economically and ecologically integrated rural tourism (Cawley and Gillmor, 2008), insofar as it participates in “cross-cutting development dynamics favouring the local economy, the protection of the natural and cultural heritage, and the affirmation or reinforcement of social and collective identities” (de Myttenaere, 2011, p. 37), seems to be a form of development that is in line with the LEADER action philosophy:

  • Cross-sectoral, the LEADER programme is intended to be a field of experimentation for the diversification of activities in rural areas at the intersection of economic, residential and productive functions. By supporting functional complementarities between different sectors of activity, LEADER is perfectly suited to the development of rural tourism projects that integrate agricultural or agri-rural activities and tourism, regardless of the scale of application, whether companies or territories (see section 1);

    • 10 At least 50% of the actors in the programming committee must come from the private sector in order (...)

    Multi-partner, rural tourism is based on the chain of actors involved from production, agricultural or tourist, to the marketing of services and benefits (promotion and distribution). This multi-partner dynamic, which is based on the division of labour between agents in the same sector or in different sectors of activity, calls for a necessary link between actors and service providers who share complementary activities and useful cooperative relationships, as opposed to the atomicity of the offer. Here we find the spirit of LEADER, a “space for negotiation” between public and private actors within a regulatory “framework” of governance10, LEADER is also “a space for the empowerment of private actors” (Chevalier, 2014) that the learning of a collective dialogue supported by public policy should allow;

  • Finally, in its territorial structuring, it takes place at the level of the small region and the project territory (optimal organisation of actors and the chain of operators): the issues and challenges it faces are indeed regional, but its operationality is expressed and revealed within the tourist catchment areas which, in Corsica, given the relative isolation of the micro-regions from one another, follow the borders of the catchment areas (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: LAG project territories (2014–2020)

Figure 3: LAG project territories (2014–2020)

Source : Rural network - LEADER territories

The Tourism Dimension of LEADER Territory Projects in Corsica

  • 11 The total envelope dedicated to the EAFRD (second pillar of the CAP) in Corsica amounts to 256 mill (...)

11Superimposed on the borders of micro-regional living areas, and therefore on the territories of action of the tourist information centres (Figure 3), LEADER is therefore taking up the issue of tourism. Of the nine projects submitted during the call for expressions of interest that we “examined” as an expert, six were selected for funding, and of these six territorial projects, each with a budget of approximately 1.8 million euros for an overall envelope of 11–12 million euros (i.e., approximately 5 small percent of the funds dedicated to rural development in the territory11). More than half of them directly and openly display an assumed “tourism coloration”, while the others put forward the need for endogenous development through the activation of local resources, a strategy that leaves a large place to the development of rural tourism as a tool for the territorial valorisation of local products and productions (see section1; see next figure).

Tableau 1 : Development strategies led by the LEADER LAGs in Corsica, 2014–2020 contractualisation (source: application files submitted in response to the call for expression of interests in July 2015)

Local Action Group 

Covered area

Number of inhabitants

Municipalities and inte-municipilaties

Stated strategy

Examples of measures and operations related to rural tourism

Pays d’Ajaccio



21 municipalities

3 intermunicipalities : Haute-Vallée de la Gravona, Prunelli, CAPA

Promote territorial cohesion and the interdependence of economic, social and cultural initiatives

Prepare the conditions for the emergence of a territorial economic offer by networking actors, skills and the development of local resources (intersectoral alliances: tourism, agriculture, culture, heritage);

Build and develop a territorial economic offer favouring the creation of new products and services (including rural fairs and agrotourism)




32 municipalities

2 intermunicipialities: Taravo et Valinco-Sartenais

Promote territorial coherence to reduce the geographical divide caused by seaside tourism and the location of coastal services; develop the territory through agricultural and heritage dynamics

Develop short heritage circuits;

Provide the territory with a sign of recognition and quality (territorial brand type);

Offer “pastoral holidays”;

Create a rural, thermal, sports and cultural tourism offer

Sud Corse



26 municipalities; 3 intermunicipalities: Alta Rocca, Sud Corse, Côte des Nacres

To act for a responsible tourism offer at the service of the territory and the populations of South Corsica; (to develop a 4 seasons tourism which relies on the plurality of activities and takes advantage of the richness and diversity of the natural and cultural heritages.)

Offer of new tourist products (linguistic, cultural, etc.);

Development of short marketing circuits (farmers’ market, etc.);

Support for soft mobility (eco-shuttles to the beaches and the town, etc.);

Structuring the players to ensure that the tourist offer is upmarket

Corse Orientale



34 municipalities; 2 intermunicipalities : Oriente ; Fium’Orbu-Castellu

Structuring an ecotourism offer

Creation of an ecotourism charter;

Publication of a guide to good practice in eco-housing;

Signposting, development and signposting of ecotourism sites;

Structuring and marketing of ecotourism packages

Castagniccia-Mare & Monti



59 municipalities; 3 intermunicipalities: Casinca, Costa Verde, Orezza-Ampugnani

Contribute to the development of a new local economy that strengthens sea/mountain exchanges through (1) the economic development of local resources; (2) village tourism based on identity and authenticity; (3) accessibility of the territory

Qualify character accommodation based on the Albergho diffuso model;

Develop a targeted offer around niche products (gastronomy, sports and outdoor activities, events);

Support for an innovative and intersectoral local economy (territorial brand, product promotion, circular economy, creation of cooperatives, etc.);

Pays de Balagne



36 municipalities

2 intermunicipalities: Calvi-Balagne ; l’Île-Rousse Balagne

Develop a productive economy enhancing endogenous resources by (1) mobilising local resources and (2) converting the flow of tourists into local export opportunities

Creation of thematic and heritage circuits integrating the “rencontres balanines” brand and linked to the promotion of local products and know-how

Source : Application files submitted in response to the AMI in July 2015

12From the previous table, it is clear that tourism now occupies a prominent place in the strategic orientations decided and desired by the local actors for the LEADER territories. This was not really presented as such during the previous contractualisation: if the strategies continue to place the territorial quality rent model at the heart of the discourse and the activation of the territorial and heritage resources at the heart of the local action, the actors now assume to explicitly display tourism as a desirable lever for local development. The strategies implemented are obviously in line with the issues arising from the PADDUC, and in phase with the needs of the territories and their economic and social realities. They converge on two major themes: (1) the development of a sustainable tourist economy based on (2) innovative and endogenous development of rural assets.

Some Concrete Examples: Innovation at the Heart of Rural Territories

LEADER, a Lever for Action Within the Institutional Ecosystem

13To illustrate this strategy, we will look at three examples of rural tourism development projects carried out by local actors and supported by the LEADER programme. These three projects seem to us to illustrate the diversity of issues and experiences in the field of sustainable tourism, responding to the priority objective of revitalising rural areas and inland territories (mountains). These LEADER projects are all part of a more global logic already in place, via other levers of action and with the support of other public funds, and they bring a definite added value to the territory insofar as they opportunely complete an existing strategy and support the implementation of local initiatives “sensed” or identified beforehand as being able to be the ferment for the concretization of the good wills displayed. In each of these projects, rural tourism therefore has a special place, whether it is the spearhead of the strategy or a lever deployed in the service of a more transversal territorial innovation approach, emerging “from below” and based on the activation of territorial assets (see previous sections).

14Firstly, in Eastern Corsica, a territory in the east of the island, a plain interspersed with numerous wetlands (ponds) protected under the RAMSAR convention or as properties of the “Coastal Conservatory”12, it is ecotourism that is explicitly displayed13 as a means of building an identity for the territory around the image of a “land of nature, land of encounters”: in the spirit of the roadmap of the Corsican Tourism Agency (ATC), which intends to make Corsica a flagship ecotourism destination in the Mediterranean (Roadmap of the ATC, 2018), making use of its natural assets but also its cultural heritage, and in particular its local products, The territory of Corsica Orientale intends to play the ecotourism card, understood here in an extensive sense, not only restricted to nature activities, even if these remain predominant and major in terms of building the attractiveness of the sites. It is this vision and ambition that can be found in the Territorial Charter for Ecotourism, which is open to food producers, restaurant owners and accommodation providers as long as they respect the collectively built eco-set of specifications, or which can be read in the guide to good practice drawn up for accommodation providers who want to be eco-responsible or who wish to train to become so. This ecotourism project is not only that of LEADER, the opportunity of the programme being used here to consolidate a wider approach to the construction of a global territorial eco-development project also based on the Positive Energy and Green Growth Territory (TEPCV) label, on the local Agenda 21 or even on the effort made in terms of waste sorting, the territory being among the most efficient in Corsica in this respect. If LEADER is essential in terms of structuring the offer and supports a number of small tourism projects in the territory, it is clear how its scope is strengthened by its articulation with other institutional opportunities. In a way, it is a real institutional ecosystem that has been created around the more global strategy of ecotourism carried out here, and within which LEADER finds its place via the theme of the (eco)-tourist development of rurality.

LEADER, an Experimental Field for New Territorialities

15The second project that we will take as an example is that carried out by the Castagniccia Mare & Monti LAG, also located a little further north on the eastern coast of the island. A territory with an image deficit, known rather for its mass tourism facilities concentrated on the maritime fringe of the territory, the LEADER “Castagniccia” LAG intends to “redirect [tourist] flows towards the inland villages and propose new forms of tourism based on identity and authenticity” (LEADER application, p. 33). To this end, the LAG supports a number of initiatives designed to develop village tourism, while upgrading the offer and proposing niche products centred on the richness of the rural heritage around the village centres. In particular, two innovative actions attract our attention: the qualification of rural accommodation with character based on the Sardinian model of the “diffuse inn” (a model of split accommodation where the rooms offered can be located in different dwellings, and different from the main reception establishment and the restaurant) and the organisation of mountain bike sports circuits with the support of the PNRC and the French Cycling Federation. The first example of an initiative calls for international and inter-territorial cooperation that could inspire a number of entrepreneurs on the island territory as a whole, especially since with the revision of the Mountain Law in 2015, the island benefits from a special status giving it the possibility to establish a tax-free zone for mountain businesses. However, at the moment, the declination of the Italian model faces a legislative impossibility that would require a modification of the tourism code (Fenocchi & Tafani, 2014). The other initiative has already seen the light of day and has made it possible to structure an original cyclo-tourism offer (roads and tracks) in the island landscape, a model that could be reproduced elsewhere in Corsica with the help of specialist players in the sector.

  • 14 A specific French institution based on the gathering of many inter-municipalities.

16Finally, the third example of a territorial project to which we will return here is that of the Taravo-Sartenais-Valinco territory, a rural territory located on the south-western coast of the island, which intends to develop a collective territorial brand around local food and its emblematic products in the image of what its Sardinian neighbours (Province of Nuoro) have done, with which the local actors collaborate. To give coherence to the whole, this initiative is linked to previous initiatives promoting rurality through the tourist showcase as illustrated by “a fiera di u turisimu campagnolu”, the rural tourism fair, organised every year at the beginning of August on the prehistoric site of Filitosa, or even with the strategy of the “Pôle d’Equilibre Territorial et Rural”14 which supports the local Territorial Food Programme. The general objective is to promote a “balance between tourism and other sectors of activity” and to support “spatial cooperation” and “geographical solidarity” (sea/mountain) (LAG application file, 2015). Providing the territory with a sign of recognition and identification would make it possible both to protect the local food heritage and to make it known within the territory, but also beyond the borders of the island, the idea being to sell products in a cross-border manner between Corsica and Sardinia in order to encourage short circuits within an innovative exchange area. In other words, LEADER contributes to the creation of new territorialities in a chosen geographical and relational proximity and participates in the construction of networks of actors beyond the borders of the island territory.

Conclusion: Towards a Concerted Management?

17In conclusion, we can say that in terms of rural tourism management on the island territory, LEADER redefines the areas of public action (Chevalier, 2014) relating to tourism. These new areas of action are superimposed on the perimeters of the tourist cluster offices, or even strengthen them, making LEADER the operational “armed wing” of their ambitions, even if it can be considered, more rarely, that LEADER replaces them in certain respects. It should be emphasised that tourism, and more particularly sustainable rural tourism, is now a clearly stated ambition of the development strategies led by local actors, who no longer hide behind the more global, perhaps more diluted, logic of territorial enhancement of heritage resources. Implemented directly throughout the island territory through the territorial projects of the various LAGs, the development strategy in favour of sustainable, responsible tourism or ecotourism converges with other public policies (PAT, TEPCV, Agenda 21, etc.) carried out by the various public players in the territory (ODARC, ATC, OEC, PNRC) in the sense of the more global elaboration of an eco-development project for the island territory. Based on the theory of the territorial quality rent, on the tourist valorisation of rural amenities and on the management of geographical and organisational proximity, in Corsica, the LEADER programme intends to play the card of the reconnection between tourism and rurality to the full, in a desire to structure the offer and the collective organisation of the actors. LEADER is an arena that is conducive to triggering this virtuous dynamic and is part of a complex institutional landscape that is also a real ecosystem for development on a local scale. And through the experimentation that it allows, it is also capable of creating new territorialities, redrawing the map of the territories of action within the island territory itself (re-articulation of the coast/mountains) but also sometimes beyond the island’s borders (relations between Corsica and Sardinia).

18In this landscape, the added value of LEADER (LeRoy and Vollet, 2013) is to contribute to local development and sustainable development by fulfilling three fundamental criteria (Chevalier, 2014) which make it possible to overcome the dividing lines between public actors and the sharing of funds: “creating relational proximity” within the LAGs’ perimeters but also with close neighbours as we have seen in relation to Sardinia for example, “making a territorial community” by creating a space for dialogue for local democracy, “integrating a set of public policies” in a logic of concordance of funds, consultation in the elaboration of strategies and collegial participation of actors. On its small scale, LEADER therefore contributes to the construction of a territorial framework favouring an enterprising and learning system (drawing on previous experiences). In this sense, the LEADER programme, from the moment it targets issues and strategies that are narrowed down, such as tourism in this case, can be seen as a factor that triggers a virtuous territorial development dynamic when it makes it possible to combine two fundamental elements: on the one hand, the implementation of a governance system involving the different stakeholders and taking into account the expectations of the local populations and on the other hand, the use of territorial resources for the production and creation of localized goods and services, and this, in order to generate territorial innovation (Torre, 2015; 2018).

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1 DATA: INSEE, 2015.

2 The interior of Corsica often refers to mountainous territories, as opposed to the coastline.

3 Vin de l’Île de Beauté, Kiwi, Pomelo, Clémentine, Noisette de Cervioni, Charcuterie de l’Île-de-Beauté.

4 9 in wine and spirits (Corsica, Patrimonio, Calvi, Ajaccio, Sartène, Figari, Porto-Vecchio, Cap Corse and Muscat du Cap Corse), Brocciu, Honey, Chestnut flour, Olive oil, Lonzu, Coppa, Corsican ham

5 Corsican Agricultural and Rural Development Office, Corsican Tourism Agency, Corsican Economic Development Agency, Corsican Transport Office, Corsican Water Office, Corsican Land Office, Corsican Environment Office.

6 European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

7 European Regional Development Fund.

8 The new version of the PNRC (Charter voted in 2018) includes half of the island municipalities (180 out of 360), most of which are classified as mountainous even though they have a maritime frontage (Mountain Law of 1985).

9 The division proposed by the ATC is based on the logic of catchment areas.

10 At least 50% of the actors in the programming committee must come from the private sector in order to give impetus to a "bottom-up" development dynamic and to create start-up effects in terms of local private initiative.

11 The total envelope dedicated to the EAFRD (second pillar of the CAP) in Corsica amounts to 256 million euros, while LEADER, measure 19 of the CRDP, represents only 4.6%, a straw! But it is not a negligible straw when it comes to local initiatives, as long as we pursue a project-based approach and not a one-stop shop approach, which would result in a well-known dilution of funds in the territory without meeting the challenges of the added value provided by LEADER in terms of leverage on the development of local initiatives.

12 Called in French: « Conservatoire du Littoral ».

13 See the website of Ecotourism in Eastern Corsica:

14 A specific French institution based on the gathering of many inter-municipalities.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: cover of the paper guide to the Authentic Senses Route (A strada di i Sensi di Corsica) (source:
Crédits Source :
Fichier image/jpeg, 8,8k
Titre Figure 2: simplified diagram of the LEADER application circuit (source: author)
Crédits Source : author
Fichier image/jpeg, 120k
Titre Figure 3: LAG project territories (2014–2020)
Crédits Source : Rural network - LEADER territories
Fichier image/jpeg, 476k
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Caroline Tafani, « Managing Rural Tourism in Corsica: How to Move from Competition to Complementarity. Discussion on the LEADER Program »Journal of Alpine Research | Revue de géographie alpine [En ligne], 110-4 | 2022, mis en ligne le 15 mars 2022, consulté le 06 juin 2023. URL : ; DOI :

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Caroline Tafani

Maître de Conférences en géographie
UMR 6240 CNRS LISA – Università di Corsica Pasquale Paoli
Bâtiment Simeoni, BP 52
20250 CORTE

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