Image and fame of Napoleon I

In 2014, in a context of events marked by numerous commemorations and anniversaries (centennial of WWI, 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings, bicentenary of the campaign of France and the battle of Paris...) the Paris Region Tourist Board wishes to develop history-themed tourism. An image survey on Napoleon I was therefore carried out in order to better understand how he is perceived by the visitors of the destination. What is their degree of interest for French history? Do they know Napoleon I? Which image do they have of him? To whom and what do they associate it? What is their opinion about a package proposal around this historical figure? How do they imagine it? All these elements will enable the Paris Region Tourist Board to create durable offers that represent major stakes at tourism, economic and cultural level.



In short

What is the degree of interest for French history?

Which image does Napoleon I have?

How should an offer around the character of Napoleon I be structured?

In short

Les 10 points clés
  • Great interest for French history, in particular for the era of the Revolution.
  • Napoleon I, a famous figure that generates interest and curiosity in French and international tourists.
  • Qualities recognised by all: iconic, military and conquering.
  • International tourists are initially sensitive to the personality of Napoleon I in itself and his battles: his private life and his military conquests.
  • French visitors attracted by the reforming and building aspects: his legislative work and architectural policy.
  • A Napoleon I-themed offer is well received by all visitors, even beyond commemorative events.
  • Proposals to be structured around ‘must-see’ locations: Arc de Triomphe and Hôtel des Invalides
  • A package that should include key activities at the destination: themed walks in the centre of Paris and Seine cruises.
  • A specific need for information but an organisation that must remain flexible: a requirement of all tourists.

What is the degree of interest for French history?


Quel est le niveau d’intérêt pour l'histoire de France

A strong attraction for France and its History

Irrespective of their nationality, the visitors to the destination are attracted by French History as a whole.

91% of them indicate they are attracted by the subject. Amongst them the most curious are the Russian visitors with 98% interested, followed by the Japanese (96%) and the Germans (95%). It must be noted that amongst the latter, the proportion of very interested persons is the highest and always above 50%. Although 82% of the Swiss state that they are rather or very interested, they are the least attracted by French history. With 94% interest, the French customers - quite logically - are above average.

The revolution, an era that generates interest

The era of the revolution (1789-1815) generates most curiosity in the visitors of the destination (62%) followed by the modern times (1517-1789) and the turbulent times (1914-1958) (respectively 50% and 43%). With some 8 visitors out of 10 (79%), German tourists are particularly interested in the revolutionary era. Japanese and British customers also are particularly interested by it (respectively 70% and 62%).

As for the French visitors, 56% have a passion for the era.

An important figure in French history

With the exception of French customers, international visitors consider Napoleon I the major figure in French history (74%), before general De Gaulle (46%), Joan of Arc (43%) or Louis XIV (26%). The Dutch, British and Russian tourists scored Napoleon I the highest with respectively 84%, 76% and 76%. For French tourists the most iconic figure is General de Gaulle (70%), just before Napoleon I (62%). To be noted too, the peculiarity of the Japanese customers who mention Marie-Antoinette after Napoleon I, with 48%.

Which image does Napoleon I have?

Image et notoriété de Napoléon

A high level of knowledge

Russian literature was deeply influenced by Napoleon

Russian visitor

I studied Napoleon at school with the French revolution, Robespierre, Danton…

German visitor

He has done a lot of things but I get confused, French history is very complicated and I can’t seem to remember everything

French visitor

Overall, the visitors of the destination have a very good knowledge of the historical figure of Napoleon I (73%). The Russian tourists have the highest level (85%), followed by German and Dutch customers (respectively 81% and 77%). Swiss tourists on the contrary know him least (53%). These considerable levels in international customers can be partially justified by the teaching of the history of Napoleon I at school or the rich literature about the figure. Apart from Swiss and Belgian visitors, those tourists have even a better knowledge of Napoleon I than the French visitors (72%). However, the numerous battles and campaigns remain blurred in the mind of all the tourists. Furthermore, neither the international visitors nor the French customers spontaneously mention the French campaign and the battle of Paris.

Napoleon I, a figure that fascinates

The level of knowledge of Napoleon I is high for all visitors (84%). The most interested customers are the Russians with 97%, followed by the Germans with 90% and the British with 86%. However, the Swiss and Belgian visitors are more lukewarm (respectively 66% and 77%). As for the French customers, their interest level is 83%.

I could be interested in that figure who built Europe in a certain way

German visitor

I am interested by the character, but I can’t seem to figure him out

French visitor

Ambivalent evocations

He was a warrior

Dutch visitor

Even as a young general he had the drive to build an empire, it is fascinating

German visitor

A figure who did lots of things but very violent (…) a certain type of vanity

French visitor

Napoleon I is a fascinating character about whom the visitors mainly remember the positive aspects of his reign. Iconic (89%), military (89%) and conqueror (87%) are the three characteristics that are most used to describe Napoleon I. Due to his numerous conquests, the military aspect is an indivisible dimension of the character, both for French (93%) and international (88%) customers. Furthermore, the interviewed visitors agree to allocate the three following qualities to this historical figure: ambitious (91%), authoritarian (90%) and with military expertise (87%).

Japanese and Russian customers also talk about energy to define this character (respectively 93% and 91%) whereas German and Dutch tourists emphasise his bravery (respectively 88% and 78%). The Russian customers admire his organisational skills (92%). Tourists also emphasise the fact that he reorganised France (76%), conquered Europe (75%) or modernised French institutions (75%). To a lesser extent Napoleon I is also perceived as a dictator (66%) or a tyrant (53%), in particular by Russian customers (respectively 75% and 64%) and British and German tourists because of the dictatorial aspect (70% each).

Carte Napoléon

A different interest depending on nationality

Tagcloud Napoléon

The interest of the French tourists is mostly focused on the heritage Napoleon I left behind for France, i.e. the reformation of French society (70%) from a legislative point of view (French bank) or his work as a constructor (60%), with his contribution in terms of architecture and urban planning (Arc de Triomphe, rue de Rivoli…). The international customers are first attracted by the character in itself (59%) in particular his private life (his family and affairs) and his geopolitical dimension based on all his military conquests (54%).

What I am interested in is his private life, his relationship with Josephine, it must be interesting to see his house

British visitor

He did a lot: laws that still exist.

French visitor

How should an offer around the character of Napoleon I be structured?

Comment construire une offre autour du personnage de Napoléon

A double goal

Depending on the theme, I could be interested as I don’t know Napoleon I very well

French visitor

It makes it possible to discover new places

Belgian visitor

Beyond the commemorations and the anniversary dates tourists are interested by the idea of a tourist package around Napoleon I. It has to fulfil two goals:

  • Give the opportunity of better getting to know the figure and this era in French history.
  • Emphasise interesting sites that sometimes find it difficult to emerge from the broad and varied offer in Paris Region.

A need for information before the stay

It would be nice to have a brochure on the life and work of Napoleon

German visitor

In order to prepare their visits and engross themselves in the subject, tourists wish to receive a brochure in advance. This brochure would present Napoleon I, his life, his work, the places to visit, circuits and maps. All that information would thus prepare the visitor to enter the world of this character. A website about the Napoleon I package could also be created. The website would present the story of the character through various locations selected in the context of the offer and propose a ticket box office for monuments and sites. The tourists could thus create their own circuits. Finally, the idea of a city pass is rather well received. It would allow them to visit the sites at their own pace - in one or several days - depending on the length of their stay. The city pass would integrate discounts on transport and accommodation.

Once on site, a precise but flexible organisation

It is nice to have a guide, although I don’t like the kitsch aspect of the guy with the sign... It should stay free, like meeting at that time, no coaches

French visitor

In the context of a package on Napoleon I the majority of tourists wish to benefit from comments and a complete presentation during visits to discover the link between the site or the monument and the character. The visitors prefer an audio guide system or an explanatory booklet that gives them more flexibility while benefitting from the necessary information to understand the place, in particular during a walk through the streets of Paris. Tourists who do not like guided tours would find this positive. Furthermore this offer should be concentrated in one day by avoiding multiplying proposed activities so each visit can be appreciated. Subsequently, for the order to be complete, it is possible to envisage the integration of a lunch. The idea is received well although it doesn’t integrate a group logic. Finally, if the package requires transport in the Paris Region it is important to inform the tourists of the access facilities and the time of travel to be expected to reach the location of the visit.

Must-see sites

Tableau Napoléon

Despite the great fame of the sites and monuments proposed in the Paris Region destination, the visitors link very few to Napoleon I.

For approximately half of the interviewed tourists (48%), the Arc de Triomphe is the most representative monument for Napoleon I. Some three quarters of the Japanese customers think it is a symbol for that figure (73%) as well as 58% of the Russians and 56% of the Dutch. Furthermore, the Arc de Triomphe is iconic for the Paris Region destination. Indeed, more than 6 visitors out of 10 have visited it (61%). It is therefore essential to integrate it in the package, in particular for international tourists.

The Hotel des Invalides is also a site linked to Napoleon I by 26% of the visitors. Some 4 French tourists out of 10 (39%) identify it to the history of the character, followed by 29% of Belgians and 26% of Russians. The site intrinsically linked to Napoleon I, with his tomb at the centre of the building must be part of the products linked to that figure.

The Pantheon is also mentioned by 22% of visitors, as well as the castle of Versailles by 17%. These sites, as well as the museum of the Legion d’honneur, the castles of Fontainebleau and Malmaison would also find a legitimate place in such a package.

Activities elected by the majority

Having a brochure explaining the various stages of the life of Napoleon and a detailed map where to visualise them geographically

Dutch visitor

The offer is not bad, especially the side of visit, walk, discovery

French visitor

A Napoleon I package as such seems ambitious because it appears to tourists as a restrictive theme that does not allow for enjoying all the experiences of the destination. Consequently, it should be integrated in a more general visit to the destination. The principle of walks is strongly appreciated by the visitors for the discovery of the achievements of Napoleon I. The activity allows to approach the figure from a “constructor” perspective and to go beyond the well-known monuments. Other sites, of which the customers might not know the links with Napoleon I can be integrated, such as the Pont des Arts, Iéna, d’Austerlitz…, the Ourcq, Saint-Martin, Saint-Denis canals… or the rue de Rivoli, de Castiglione, des Pyramides… A walk makes it possible to discover the whole city while enjoying its atmosphere. A Seine cruise would also add value to such a package. Actually this activity gives tourists the opportunity to enjoy a great overview of the city and a pleasant and relaxing time. Shopping could also be included in a package around the figure of Napoleon I. This is indeed one of the preferred activities of tourists when staying in Paris Region and would constitute a break in a day dedicated to History tourism.

And to go further...

Some tourists wish for fun and interactive activities to be integrated in a Napoleon I-themed package such as:

  • Battle re-enactments
  • Perspective around other figures such as Josephine for example,
  • Period scenographies and costumes with the possibility of dressing up,
  • Children’s activities in the sites such as treasure hunts e.g.,
  • Films either at the start of the stay, or at the end of the day, that would represent Napoleon I in general,
  • Conferences or debates to address specific visit-linked themes more thoroughly.

The study was performed between December 2013 and January 2014 in two phases. The first consisted of a quantitative approach with an online survey of 900 tourists knowing at least the name of Napoleon I and having visited in the 6 past months or about to visit Paris Region in the 6 coming months (200 French visitors and 100 tourists originating from the following countries: Great Britain, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Russia and Japan. That approach was completed with a qualitative approach with telephone interviews of approximately 50 minutes with 8 French visitors and 7 international tourists (or one for each country described above).

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