With a base of successful campaigns such as “France Celebrates India”, “Be There! Do That!” and “48 Hour Visa” in the past, Atout France is equipped with opportunities in experiential tourism such as wellness, gastronomy and wine, says the new director Sheetal Munshaw.
Congratulations on becoming the director. Where has Catherine Oden left Atout France after her nine year long position as director in India?
Catherine’s sincere and committed efforts have left a positive impact in the positioning of France as a tourist and leisure destination. Her dedicated approach in promoting different facets of France to the Indian traveller has given a tremendous boost to the showcasing of French regions. Her creative and innovative approaches have seen the launch of successful campaigns such as “France Celebrates India” and “ Be There! Do That!” that have been well received by the travel fraternity and consumers alike. Destination France has truly benefitted under the astute leadership of Catherine.
What are your responsibilities and agenda as the new director?
My primary objective is to continue showcasing France as a premier and versatile destination that appeals to tourists, business travellers and the discerning Indian globetrotter. We will continue to work in close association with our travel partners including Air France, Rail Europe, French suppliers and of course the Indian travel agent community and the media to strengthen our efforts. We will continue to work closely in Mumbai and Delhi and also make inroads into Tier II and Tier III cities to create more awareness about France as a tourist destination and reach out to a wider base of travel professionals.
My objective is also to enhance France’s positioning as a destination for business tourism. We would like to optimise the recent positive developments in visa deliverances to promote France as a preferred destination for business tourism.
Being the first Indian director of Atout France, how will the position help in favour of promoting France in India?
I think there cannot be a more welcoming sign from France than to have an Indian passionate about France to flag the cause of promoting Indian arrivals to France! Having said that, France is truly ready to receive and welcome the Indian traveller with open arms. As the national tourism board we make concerted efforts to communicate the myriad tourism opportunities in France on the one hand and the ever evolving and changing travel patterns of the Indian traveller on the other. We are a cultural bridge between what France has to offer and how to best adapt it to the taste of the Indian traveller all in maintaining the authenticity of the experience.
How has France shaped as destination for Indians? Have the tourists moved beyond the Eiffel Tower?
Over the last few years, France has evolved as a solo-destination. We have seen an increase in the number of Free Independent Travellers (FIT) spending at least 8-10 days discovering Paris and the French regions. Through our communication campaign, “Be There! Do That!” we have essayed to promote France as an experiential destination with a plethora of activities that are compatible to the Indian traveller’s interests. Our annual workshop Rendez-vous en France has been a productive platform for regions in France to promote their tourism offerings to Indian travel professionals and eventually the end consumer. Today’s traveller is keen to go beyond the surface and experience locales, cultures, cuisines and travel in the true sense of the term. He is looking to plan a wine trail in Reims-Champagne, Dijon- Burgundy, explore the versatile region of Rhone-Alpes, plan an alpine stay in Chamonix Mont Blanc, plan a seaside rendezvous in Nice, Cannes, St Tropez, Marseille, La Baule, Deauville, discover picturesque Midi Pyrenees, quaint Carcassonne, charming Picardy or a spiritual holiday in the cities of Lourdes and Lisieux. The Eiffel Tower remains emblematic and is an indispensable part of a travellers road map in France, however it is now the gateway to his journey in France.
How was 48-hour visa service received? Did it affect the tourism traffic from India? Please share some figures from this holiday season.
The 48 hour visa deliverance has been received with an enthusiastic response from the Indian travel fraternity. Thanks to the efforts of our Ambassador and the efficiency displayed by the Consular teams across India in implementing effective visa procedures, we now have a smooth functioning of the visa submission process. The summer season for 2015 has been a good one for France, but for the moment we do not have figures. We are however pleased to announce that in 2014, our destination received over 400,000 Indian visitors registering a growth of 18 pc as compared to last year.
What are the new offerings from France for Indian travellers? What is your strategy for the their growing appetite for new experiences?
France’s greatest strength is its diversity! We have an exhaustive repertoire of delectable recipes to satiate the changing palate and appetite of our travellers! From the city of dreams to glitzy beaches, stupendous alpine summits and jaw dropping scenic backdrops to intoxicating vineyards, world renowned gastronomy including vegetarian delicacies, UNESCO world heritage sites, France has the most versatile kaleidoscope of landscapes and tourism attractions spoiling its visitors for choice.
In the last year we have had the Midi Pyrenees region who has shown significant interest in the Indian market. The region has been in the spotlight, thanks to its association with the Hollywood film, The Hundred-Foot Journey that starred Om Puri and Helen Mirren that has been a fitting showcase of the beauty of the region. Its various facets have been showcased through a multi-pronged media campaign targeting both B2B and B2C segments. The region of Champagne has also been active in India and has invested in B2C campaigns and hosting travel agents to their region. The Picardy region has also taken an active interest in the Indian market and is keen to develop synergies with the trade and press.
Through engagements in various campaigns executed with our partners, we have tried to promote France as a wedding, incentive and a family-friendly destination. Through our campaign, “Be There! Do That!” we will continue promoting France as an active holiday destination and will also weave in gastronomy and wine tourism that are integral to France’s art de vivre or way of life.
How is the connectivity between India and France? Is there any plan of addition in the space?
From India, Air France along with Jet Airways has 27 weekly flights connecting to 25 cities within France. Air India offers a direct daily flight to Paris from New Delhi.
What is the theme and agenda for the Atout France annual workshop to be held in September this year?
Like every year the Rendez-Vous France workshop will bring together Indian travel professionals that promote tourism to France and tourism players and suppliers in France to showcase their tourism offeringsand appraise their Indian partners and equip them to better sell France as a premier tourism destination.
This year, we will also take the 24 member delegation to Bangalore to showcase France to travel trade professionals in the region.
In terms of theme, France being at the helm of affairs for EURO 2016 and with Indians travelling increasingly on special interest holidays, Super Victor will be the leitmotif of the Workshop attracting Indians with a penchant for football to travel in large numbers to France.
What are your expectations from 2015 and where do you see France in the next five years in Indian market?
2015 has been a good year and should conclude on a high note as well. The visa situation has certainly given travel to France a welcoming boost. In the next five years I see France evolve even further as a solo destination as well as an incentive destination. With Eiffel Tower having an emblematic space on world map for the Indian travellers. France will continue to appeal to the Group Travellers but with other iconic destinations such as Nice and Chamonix Mont Blanc having climbed the priority charts, I certainly see Indian travellers spending increasing number of days discovering France. In addition to the popular tourism attractions, the visa facilitation will also prove instrumental in moving corporate travellers in our direction and lastly given the eclectic interests of the Indian traveller in areas such as wellness, food and wine and experiential travel we are likely to have repeat travellers spending longer durations discovering the true French art de vivre in the years to come.