French tourism makes solid rebound
The 16th edition of Rendezvous en France, French tourism’s largest annual B2B trade show, took place in late March with over 1,850 travel professionals gathering at the Porte de Versailles Convention Center in Paris. Over two business days, some 660 French exhibitors met with 786 tour operators from 67 countries, including nearly 60 delegates from the Middle East. The number of attendees reflects a strong post-pandemic interest in France as a travel destination despite continued global challenges like high energy costs, inflation and geopolitical instability.
At the show, a record tourism revenue of €58 billion ($64 billion) in 2022 was announced, indicating that travellers are returning to France in large numbers, especially from Europe and the Americas. “French tourism has recovered, even exceeding pre-pandemic levels,” said Atout France CEO Caroline Leboucher, adding that the recovery was fuelled by a €2 billion tourism spending package approved by the French government in November 2021. “The plan had two objectives: to consolidate [France] as the world’s leading tourism destination and to become the benchmark destination for sustainable tourism,” said Leboucher. Tourism accounts for 8 per cent of France’s GDP.
PARIS 2024: OLYMPIC IMPACT
Major international sporting events like the Rugby World Cup in September 2023, and especially the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, are expected to further boost France’s tourism resurgence. “[These events] are an opportunity to enhance both France’s attractiveness as a destination and the quality of the reception we give our guests, to promote the savoir-faire of the country’s event management professionals and to optimize the economic boost generated by inviting international visitors to extend their stay with us,” said Leboucher.
During Rendezvous France, TTN also learned about On Location, Paris 2024’s innovative ticketing and hospitality system. For the first time in Olympic history, fans can purchase tickets securely and fairly on a single, centralised online portal. The platform also lets travellers enhance their visit by booking exclusive Hospitality Packages that include guaranteed tickets with premium seating and access to in-venue lounges offering food and beverages, entertainment and gifts. For a full immersion in French culture, history, gastronomy and art, tailor-made Travel Packages are also available.
Other firsts: Paris 2024 will be the first gender-balanced Games, with exactly 50 per cent male and female athletes participating in the competitions. Almost all Olympic competitions will take place in existing or temporary facilities, reducing the carbon footprint by 50 per cent. Many venues are set against iconic backdrops, such as the Eiffel Tower and the Palace of Versailles.
SPOTLIGHT ON SUSTAINABLE
During the trade show, Atout France announced the launch of the third instalment of its #ExploreFrance marketing campaign, which this year focuses on promoting a red-hot travel trend: sustainable tourism. Under the motto “Dream Big, live slow”, the strategy strives to encourage a slower and more authentic style of travel.
According to Olivia Grégoire, Minister for Small and Medium Enterprises, Trade, Crafts and Tourism: “Since the end of the pandemic, tourist flows have tended to diversify,” she said. “This campaign is an opportunity to promote a new form of tourism, one that is more responsible, more respectful of our biodiversity and more conducive to contemplation and discovery.”
All 13 tourism regions have created innovative traveller experiences to inspire visitors to slow down and immerse themselves in France’s unique and lesser-known attractions and landscapes. Options range from forest bathing in the Vosges Massif to sea kayaking to D-Day landing sites in Normandy and learning how to paint like Claude Monet in Honfleur. Gourmets can explore Burgundy’s new truffle route or head north to explore Hauts-de-France, which this year became the first French region to be designated European Region of Gastronomy. Also new is the Vallée de la Gastronomie, a new gastro route linking 450 exclusive culinary experiences between Dijon and Marseille.
STAYING IN STYLE
TTN also learned about new luxury properties opened throughout France post-pandemic. A standout is Le Hameau des Pesquiers, the first five-star eco-accommodation on the Côte d’Azur. In Brittany’s Rennes, the venerable Domaine du Château des Pères redefines luxury in its new retro-futuristic hotel in the shape of a tree. Paris has also debuted numerous glamorous properties, including Le Grand Mazarin, SO/ Paris Hotel, Maison Proust, Hotel Dame des Arts, Bulgari Hotel and La Fantaisie.
NEW PERSPECTIVES ON PARIS
As part of Rendezvous France, TTN was able to experience some of Paris’ latest offerings aimed at both locals and visitors. Here’s a selection:
Department store Galeries Lafayette has unveiled a 3000 sq m ‘Wellness Galerie’. The glamorous retro-stylish oasis unites the best in French health and beauty treatments and therapies with a vast selection of high-end beauty and athleisure brands. The smartly curated line-up includes both iconic names like Clinique and Kiehl’s and sizzling trend-blazers like Sunday Riley and 111 Skin. Treatment options range from radiance-restoring face massages at Seasonly to cryotherapy and neuro-training at Anatomik. An entire concierge team is on hand to tailor options to customers’ needs and wishes.
SAFFRON ON THE ROOFTOPS
Did you know that saffron grows not only in Iran, Kashmir and Spain but also atop the Opéra Bastille? Learn more about this pioneering urban agriculture project founded by four local sisters on guided tours that sweep you up to the rooftop of the opera house for unforgettable views of Paris and a fascinating introduction to the secrets of saffron cultivation. Tours are bookable through #ExploreParis.
FLYING OVER FRANCE
No time to travel to the top of Mont Blanc, the abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel or the Pont du Gard? No problem! Simply strap into a jetpack at FlyView and take off on a mind-bending virtual reality journey that has you “flying” over France’s beautiful landscapes with stops at 15 iconic locations – all without ever leaving Paris.
As it celebrates its 400th anniversary, the Palace of Versailles is even more in the spotlight this year. But to see where French royalty resided before Versailles was built, you should travel to Château Vincennes, just outside Paris. Managed by the Centre des Monuments Nationaux, the mighty fortress is an immersion in the Middle Ages. It is famous for its gorgeous Gothic chapel and fortified tower (the tallest in Europe) that doubled as a prison for centuries.