The number of Canadian visitors to France witnessed a significant increase in 2016, rising by 11 per cent, and Atout France’s new permanent director Melanie Paul-Hus says that the organization aims to capitalize on the growing numbers with expanded brand awareness and a strong digital presence.
Setting out her priorities to PAX shortly after her appointment, Paul-Hus forecast a healthy future for travel between the two countries, noting the addition of new direct flights in the last two years – with more to be announced in 2018 – as a key reason for the optimism in the air at Atout France.
Paul-Hus also highlighted the fact that Canadians appear increasingly eager to explore French destinations other than the most recognizable tourist hotspots. “We feel that in travel behaviours… more cities are being discovered by Canadians,” she commented.
“Beyond Paris, Southern France has been picking up really well, and we are also trying to work promoting Bordeaux and the area, and cities that are less in the spotlight, but [have] added so many great attractions, new museums, and new hotels… it’s important to turn the spotlight on all of France, the entire territory.”
Increasing digital presence
Articulating her vision for Atout France in the coming years, Paul-Hus emphasized the importance of increasing the visibility of France and destination brands in the digital world. “That’s a really big project,” she remarked.
“Our website, france.fr, is available in 31 countries and 17 languages, and as of last July it got 1.6 million visitors for the month of July – a 39 per cent increase in the first six months of 2017 compared to the previous year.”
Growth in Canadian travel to France has been boosted by the burgeoning popularity of cities like Bordeaux.
Another key priority for Atout France, she added, will be continued training and assistance of travel professionals throughout Canada, with the organization aiming to provide opportunities for agents to network with suppliers, tourism board representatives, and tour operators to develop fresh itineraries and products.
Equally, she added, it’s also focused on providing guidance and advice to French regions and tourism boards to maximize their visibility in the Canadian market.
While the Québec market is a traditionally fruitful one for Atout France in Canada, Paul-Hus also highlighted the strong contribution of English Canada to the overall growth in Canadian tourism to France. “We’ve seen increases since Air France launched its Vancouver-Paris direct flight,” she said, “and there’s going to be additions.
“We know it’s growing, we feel a strong interest, and it’s also where we want to be very active in our plan… for us, it’s important to really explain how Canada is a diversified country and each province needs to be taken care of in a market point of view,” she continued.
“We need to find the right tourism partners in France for the right reasons, and bring them to the right province in Canada where they can increase their attractiveness, and really promote the entire destination.”
With the Olympic and Paralympic Games scheduled to be hosted by Paris in 2024, meanwhile, Paul-Hus predicted a busy but productive few years ahead as the connection between France and Canada continues to bear fruit for Atout France.
“The ties and economic links between Canada and France are really strong and growing,” she said, “so I’m very optimistic that it’s going to stay that way.”