Interview with Jean Baptiste Desbois, general manager of the Cité de l’Espace, since June 2011, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Toulouse site.
How is the Cité de l’Espace doing 25 years after its creation?
Very good, even taking into account the years 2020 and 2021 when it was closed for 9 months. When I arrived, the Cité de l’Espace had been welcoming nearly 270,000 visitors a year since 2005, the year that corresponds to the opening of Astralia, which houses the Imax theatre. Today, we are at 400,000 annual visitors. La Cité continues to develop, and this will continue, in particular with LuneXplorer.
During the covid, what was the site traffic?
The summer of 2020, after the first confinement, was very average. People preferred the coast, the mountains and the countryside rather than urban tourism.
In 2021, we were open from May 19 to December 31 and we welcomed more people than in 2019 over this same period. People have rediscovered the pleasure of urban tourism.
What is the advantage of the Cité de l’Espace in terms of tourism?
The fact that it is located at the heart of a sector, namely: space in Toulouse. In Europe, a quarter of space jobs are in the Toulouse economic area. In addition, the entire value chain of the space sector is present in Toulouse with CNES, Aerospace, ESA, Space Command, NATO’s space center of excellence, Onera, Irap, ISAE-SUPAERO, Insa, Paul-Sabatier, Airbus Defense and Space, Thales Alenia Space, Pôle Aerospace Valley, Irt… The Cité de l’Espace is part of the influence of this sector of excellence. If Toulouse did not have this equipment, it would be missing. Today, it is totally rooted in its territory.
Is the Cité de l’Espace the showcase for this sector?
On this point, we have a DNA that is divided into three: receive and communicate with all audiences (family, school, etc.); to be the common house of the space sector and also its sounding board. Finally, we are a facility wanted by Toulouse Métropole and therefore we have a social responsibility, in terms of education, scientific culture, tourism…