With a new president promising a brighter future for this historic nation, 2012 is witnessing France taking a new direction. But what does this mean for travel and tourism?
According to France’s Ministry of Economy, Finance and Industry, 77.1 million people visited the country throughout 2010. Its closest competitor was the US, which registered 59.8 million.
Statistics for 2011 have yet to be released; however, if Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau’s (PCVB) most recent results are anything to go by, this trend of global dominance is set to continue once again. “Based on hotel arrivals, 29 million visitors from all over the world, 304,906 of whom arrived from the Near and Middle East, arrived to the capital in 2011,” international promotion manager Asia - Near and Middle East, PCVB, Patricia Barthélemy told TTG.
Atout France, the France Development Tourism Agency, added that during 2010, 1.3 million tourists from the Middle East visited the country as a whole. The agency’s main aim is to actively promote the destination throughout 12 regional countries, including Turkey.
Amongst its most recent initiatives designed to do just that is a new Facebook page geared towards a regional audience.
“To complete our digital strategy, we plan to launch web-based training towards regional travel agents,” stated director - Middle East and Turkey regional office, Atout France, Karim Mekachera to TTG.
“During recent years, we noticed that many didn’t have enough knowledge to sell our destination properly. This training is aimed at making them well-versed with different aspects that make France a world-class destination.”
Additionally, a virtual workshop where French professionals may meet with Egyptian, Lebanese and Turkish travel agents has been created. A second workshop is then expected to take place in Kuwait and Qatar with the final workshop planned to be held in Turkey and Lebanon.
With the results from these workshops expected to yield more regional travel into France, the nation’s carrier, Air France, has been busy increasing its operations throughout the region.
“New destinations to MENA from cities such as Toulouse, Marseille and Nice have been launched, with Air France now able to offer shorter flight times and better prices,” assistant international PR, Air France, Anouk Faugere-Coutansais outlined for TTG.
From Toulouse, Air France offers three weekly flights to Istanbul, three weekly flights to Casablanca, two weekly flights to Marrakech and four weekly flights to Tunis. From Nice, two weekly flights are available to Tunis, while new routes from Marseille include three weekly flights to Marrakech and an extra two weekly flights (five in total) to Algiers. Other regional destinations already served by the airline include Rabat, Cairo, Amman, Beirut, Riyadh, Jeddah and Dubai.
However, the national airline is not alone in its endeavours to connect the region. Numerous regional carriers also operate into the country with Bahrain’s Gulf Air amongst the longest serving, having begun operations to Paris as early as 1976 with seven flights a week carrying more than 9,000 passengers every month.
“From July 2, 2012, Gulf Air will be increasing its flights to Paris from its current daily service to 10 weekly non-stop flights into Charles de Gaulle International Airport," confirmed commercial manager – France, Gulf Air, Vincent Verdonck to TTG.
Emirates Holidays, the tour operating arm of Emirates Airline, also actively encourages tourism into France
“As well as its heritage, there are many iconic attractions that appeal to the Middle Eastern traveller, such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and Louvre Museum, to name but a few,” commented senior vice president, Emirates Holidays, Frederic Bardin to TTG.
“Shopping and dining remain ever popular with guests from the UAE, Kuwait and the KSA in particular, including, specifically, shops and restaurants near Les Champs-Élysées, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Galeries Lafayette and Printemps."
Furthermore, Disneyland Paris has been included in Emirates Holidays’ ‘A World of Choice 2012-2013’ brochure.
In fact, this year, the world-renowned family resort is celebrating its 20th anniversary, with it proving to be an ever increasingly popular tourist attraction throughout the year for MENA visitors, as director - international sales, Disneyland Paris, Jean-Marc Murre explained to TTG: “The Middle East market is important for us. It used to be very seasonal but has recently changed, and we are happy to see families from the Gulf visiting our resort throughout the year. In terms of distribution we have appointed a distributor in Dubai, Al Tayer Travel, who, through their link of sub-agents, promotes and sells our products throughout the GCC. We also work closely with Etihad Holidays and other tour operators within the region.”
Seven hotels offering 5,800 rooms are available within the resort, from the two-star Disney's Hotel Santa Fe to the five-star Disneyland Hotel. Disney's Hotel New York offers exclusive suites at the Empire State Club, while Disneyland Hotel offers unique suites.
With equally impressive large-scale offerings, not only throughout France but globally as well, French hospitality group, Accor, offers 1,489 France-based properties with 136,387 rooms. From the 38,700 rooms opened in 2011, 23 per cent of those openings were in France, representing nearly 9,000 rooms and 89 hotels.
“Most of these new hotels came from the takeover of Citea Appart Hotels network (they are now Adagio Access properties) and from existing hotels that joined the network through franchise contracts,” outlined COO - France, Accor, Christophe Alaux to TTG.
Many guests staying at Accor-branded properties throughout France are from the Middle East with productivity through its websites increasing by 36 per cent, according to managing director – Middle East, Accor, Christophe Landais.
“As an emitting destination, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are the most important feeder markets,” Landais told TTG.
“Accor’s regional sales office has organised and attended different events in order to promote our properties, through the annual Middle East road show and through our participation at trade fairs such as ATM. We have been able to also develop key agreements with leisure operators, such as Emirates Holidays and Etihad Holidays."