Entrepreneur Kléber Rossillon communicates to enhance its cultural sites

Kléber Rossillon communicates to enhance its cultural sites

The society Kléber Rossillon, a family business, was created in 1995 from an authentic medieval castle, that of Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, in the Dordogne, which the family had restored. Twenty-four years later, it operates eleven cultural and tourist sites: five castles (Castelnaud, Murol in Auvergne, Suscinio in Brittany, Langeais near Tours, the tower of Crest in the Drôme), the prehistoric cave “Chauvet 2” in Ardèche (unique reconstruction of 35,000-year-old wall paintings), the Montmartre museum in Paris, an extraordinary garden (the Marqueyssac gardens in the Dordogne), a steam train and a vélorail in Ardèche, and the Waterloo Memorial in Belgium.

Kléber Rossillon Company

Activity : management of cultural and tourist sites.
year of creation : 1995.
Number of employees : 200 permanent, 300 seasonal.
2018 turnover : 17 million euros.
Partnerships : regional and departmental councils, Institut de France, civil engineering companies, tour operators.
Competitive advantage : professional legitimacy, creativity, technicality, rigorous management.
Type of customers : B2C and B2B2C.

In 2019, the company will have welcomed 1.7 million visitors and tourists, for a turnover of 17 million euros, with for passion the discovery of the architectural, historical and landscape cultural heritage. Two sites are owned by the family. The nine others belong to the State or to communities with a system of public service delegation, or long-term leases (over fifteen years).

Since this year, Genevieve, daughter of Kléber, took over the reins of the family business as General Manager. […]

Knowing how to promote heritage

The company’s know-how can be broken down into three areas: identifying the sites’ tourism development potential (around 200,000 visitors per year), promoting it through relevant investments, attracting and welcoming visitors, all of this. supervised by demanding management close to the field and the delegated communities. The main source of income is the ticket office. Catering or snacking, local shops and event operations (weddings, seminars, etc.) complement this.

Current expenses are largely linked to the payroll: 200 permanent staff (guides, maintenance staff, security agents) to which are added 200 to 300 seasonal workers in summer. There are few employees at the company headquarters. Good management of the on-site teams is therefore essential to generate the operating margin. […]

The investment plan for each new project is between 500,000 euros and 2 million over the entire contractual period. An integral part of the response to the call for tenders, this plan is then financed by the company and a bank loan, often regional. Funding is sometimes matched by grants. The investments, for the most part, are used to structure and develop the visit area. Scenography, reception area, ticket office, shop and restaurant.

Long-term profitability

Sometimes you have to build everything. Also, play areas or even bleachers for shows. In terms of profitability, the operation of sites requires a certain maturity to become profitable. Visitor attendance rarely progresses in a linear fashion and there are some surprises. A site can start booming and disappoint the following year. The sensitivity of the public, the media, the commitment of communities, quality marketing count a lot in the consolidation effect. Profitability is therefore built over time by knowing how to make the assets of mature sites prosper and activate the right growth levers for the youngest sites.

And then there are hazards. For example, the weather forecast: it greatly influences the results from one year to the next. The rain is favorable to the visit of the castles; good weather to that of gardens or outdoor sites. Managing diversified sites makes it possible to cushion at least part of these contingencies.

10% of turnover spent on communication

To interest potential visitors, Geneviève first focuses on the surrounding ecosystem: local communities, accommodation establishments, restaurants, tourist offices, posters, flyers, the local press. The more we talk about the site, the more visitors come to visit it and the more positive feedback from visitors, the more their number grows. For foreign visitors, these are the partnerships, with tour operators in particular, on which Geneviève relies. To this panoply of marketing actions is added more “corporate” communication through participation in television broadcasts or in certain national, public or private campaigns aimed at promoting regional cultural heritage.

In total, the communication budget represents 10% of turnover, at the rate of one euro per visitor, or 1.7 million euros for 1.7 million visitors per year. A very significant amount. Geneviève observes that the distribution channels are gradually changing under the effect of digitalization. The quality and aesthetics of the website, articles from tourism professionals, distribution through social networks and online reviews are gaining ground to increase visibility and notoriety. […]

A Franco-French model

The last big project in the pipeline is, near Nîmes and at the outlet of the Pont du Gard, the construction, from scratch, of a Roman city using the techniques of the time. The builders: the public supervised by professional craftsmen! An entire program…

Geneviève concludes with the international outlook: ” The model of our company is not so exportable abroad as such. We touch on the national cultural heritage that each country wishes to keep under its wing. But there is real recognition of French know-how in this area.

Kléber Rossillon during the Covid-19 crisis
In 2020, we mostly did the round back, explains Geneviève Rossillon, what saved us is that our activity is subject to a big seasonality. However, if all our sites had to close during confinement, we were able to reopen them between June and October, the high season. “This is what saved the company, since it was unthinkable to set up remote visits:” it has nothing to do with real visits, it is much more complicated to convey emotions at a distance. “In the end, Kléber Rossillon lost 40% of its turnover, but was able to withstand this shock thanks to an EMP of 4 million euros” which should only be amortized in several years.
Leo Da Veiga

Pauline Lahary and Alain Van Kote, authors of ‘Your Tailored Business Model’, published by Eyrolles editions.
– Eyrolles


Pauline Lahary is the founder of Mycvfactory, which produces tailor-made CVs. Alain Van Kote runs Alpha Omega Consultancy, which offers professional coaching to managers. This text is taken from their book “Your tailor-made business model” published by Eyrolles editions, 278 pages, 25 euros.

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