Despite recent years marked by dark times, tourism to France is stronger than ever with plenty of new offerings to draw travellers in 2017, said Atout France.
The tourism organization and several of its partners welcomed media to its French Connection event in Toronto last night (Nov. 9), providing destination and product updates as France looks ahead to 2017. Partners at the event included Air Canada, Destination Rennes, Val de Loire and Scenic.
Melanie Paul-Hus, deputy director for Canada, Atout France, told PAX that despite the terrorism incidents in Paris over the last two years, travel to France overall remains strong and that visitation to the French capital is expected to return to normal in 2017.
“The last months have been difficult for us but people continue to travel to areas outside of Paris, to Provence, Bordeaux and Alsace,” she said, adding that the drop in numbers to Paris varies from market to market. “Our great challenge now is to get people back to Paris – we understand if they were at one point unsure of the situation but we feel we are stronger and are very confident that Paris will be at the top again.”
Paul-Hus added that a number of programs and apps are also being promoted to connect travellers with all things France, including The French Number, which allows travellers to speak with a local resident in the destination of their choice, to get the inside scoop on travel offerings and attractions.
And with Remembrance Day ceremonies across Canada taking place tomorrow, the tourism board is actively promoting its Western Front 14-18 campaign, offering travel ideas to regions of northern France which saw heavy fighting during World War I. While the focus of the campaign will be the sites of important WWI battles (including many of significance to Canadians), it also aims to connect travellers with the region itself, renowned for its wine and gastronomic offerings.
Updates from Atout France partners
Air Canada – Since commencing service to France in 1951, the airline now offers non-stop flights to four French cities, said Sabina Steffensen, manager of leisure sales and product development and analysis, Air Canada. These include the recently launched Montreal-Lyon service along with flights from Montreal and Toronto to Paris, a summer Montreal-Nice service and Montreal-Marseilles.
Scenic – Celebrating its 30th anniversary this fall, the river cruise line will add new itineraries in France for 2017, said Lisa McCaskill, Scenic’s VP of sales & marketing. These include Gems of the Seine, a Paris-to-Paris roundtrip cruise that travels west to Honfleur before returning east to the City of Lights, and two Bordeaux cruises including a ‘Culinaire’ program focused on local cuisine. The cruises will be offered on its recently updated Space-Ships, offering additional cabins, larger wellness centres and a private ‘cooking emporium’ offering private classes.