People visiting Bordeaux recently have no doubt found their stay in the city has been made easier and more enjoyable thanks to Le Map, a...

The unfolding story of Le Map Bordeaux

People visiting Bordeaux recently have no doubt found their stay in the city has been made easier and more enjoyable thanks to Le Map, a new free city guide that combines maps with tips, useful information and even a bit of local history.

To find out more about the publication, I arranged to meet Matt Mann, one of Le Map’s creators, for a coffee and chocolatine (that’s a pain au chocolat for non-Bordelais readers). The full story goes something like this:

Can you tell me a little about the people behind Le Map?

There are two of us and we’re both native English-speakers. Dan is American, aged 29 from Atlanta, has been in France for eight years of which the past four have been spent in Bordeaux. He’s an independent marketing consultant. I’m Matt, 28, from Devon in England, and have been in Bordeaux for six years. I used to manage a pub in the city and have worked in the services sector for most of my career.

How did Le Map come about and what is it?

Well, last year we realised that very little information is readily available in Bordeaux for English-speaking visitors, despite the amount of content which is created by the local tourism board. To fill that information gap, we came up with Le Map, a modern, easy-to-use guide to the city.

Inside Le Map.
Who is the target audience and where can they pick up a copy?

Our primary audience is therefore made up of tourists coming for long or short stays, but it branches beyond that to also include people who are coming here to settle. It’s essentially a beginners’ guide to Bordeaux so, whether you’re a tourist or an expat, it’s a way of getting started in the city. You can find Le Map in outlets throughout Bordeaux: shops, bakeries, restaurants, hotels, pubs, not to mention the official tourist offices, at the railway station and at national monuments. Thanks to the tourist office we have even found our way onto passing cruise ships. We also have a number of Airbnb partners and even the local police force hand out copies; you can find Le Map in the reception area of the Commissariat! In fact, the police had supplies during the football Euros and would give Le Map to travelling supporters who needed guidance.

How do the paper and online versions of Le Map complement each other?

The online version is aimed at people viewing from home before they travel, who want to know what to expect in the city and things they can do. The paper version is more of an on-the-ground product.

Matt Mann tucking into a chocolatine at le Boulanger de l'Hôtel de Ville which, according to Le Map, produces "the best croissants and pastries in the city".
How can Le Map find its position on the market when there are so many online apps to compete with?

Often tourists arrive in Bordeaux but don’t have immediate internet access on their phone. So Le Map enables them to find their way around the city without having to use the internet. That said, we’d also like to turn it into an app sometime in the future. But our main objective right now is to secure our position on the market by being the best: by being dynamic and responsive in the content we produce. For instance, by releasing new editions throughout the year we’re able to keep it fresh and tie in with seasonal events being held in the city. The last run featured information about the wine festival and the Euro fan-zone – this kind of responsiveness wouldn’t be possible with a one-shot or yearly edition. We’re also out there on the ground distributing copies every week, maintaining the momentum and building a solid relationship with the places who stock Le Map.

How would you describe the tone of Le Map?

We want it to come across as the user’s personal guide to the city, providing the voice of someone who is familiar with Bordeaux advising you where to go, rather than a big corporate guide with a dozen recommendations that are basically adverts sold to the highest bidder. Tourists can see straight through that! We instead only highlight businesses that we ourselves love and believe in, so we only send visitors to decent places. That also sets us apart from other guides.

Here's a short video clip of Matt Mann introducing Le Map!

What has the feedback been like so far?

Excellent! Tourists are happy to receive it, agents are delighted to be able to hand it out. And the buy-in has been such that we’ve rapidly developed partnerships with institutions in Bordeaux, such as the tourist office who use it as their main hand-out to English-speaking tourists. Hotel staff also love having it because when they’re put on the spot by tourists looking for a place to have lunch, they can just give out our map with five or six good tips!

Is this something that will develop into a full-on business venture?

We would like it to be a viable structure. Our aim is to become the main point of information for English-speaking tourists and settlers in Bordeaux, and if we can pay ourselves some money doing that, then it would be great! Right now though, it’s all about getting it going. It’s more of a side project for us at the moment, but further down the line we hope things will change.  

Do you have other target cities?

Wait and see! That would indeed be the next logical step, but the focus right now is on developing the product in Bordeaux.

I love maps. Are they a guilty pleasure or timelessly fashionable?

We love maps too! They’re definitely timelessly fashionable. Even though reading a paper map is becoming a forgotten skill, they are more relevant than ever. In fact, research has shown that American tourist offices are actually increasing the print run of paper maps, so it’s a format that is still viable. We’ve just given 500 maps to a scout organisation who are coming to Bordeaux for a meet in August. That highlights the use and relevance of a map even among young people these days, rather than just having a smartphone saying “turn left, turn right, you’ve reached your destination”!...

Thanks Matt, keep up the great work with Dan!

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