To make the tourists feel at home, Paris Île-deFrance chamber of commerce and the Paris region tourist board introduced the “Yes I Speak Touriste!” mobile app.
One afternoon near the Place de la Bastille in Paris, Alberto Riberio, a tourist from Spain, stopped with his family at a quaint cafe and asked a waiter if they could sit down. “Look around!” he recalled the waiter replying abruptly. “You see empty tables, don’t you?” When the family tried to order food in halting French, the waiter rolled his eyes, Riberio said. Later, when a wrong dish was served, an argument ensued over whether it would be changed, published the New York Times in 2013.
“In general, the French can be quite friendly and helpful,” said Riberio, whose family went on to have a pleasant stay. But the encounter “was a reminder of why they can also have a reputation for being rude,” he said.
However, this is no exceptional incident. Such experiences have led to stereotyped impressions of the French as brusque, whether it is the language that acts as a barrier, is a subject of debate.
To burnish its image, the Paris tourism board in 2013 launched “Do You Speak Touriste?” campaign. As a part of this, entities such as cafes, hotels, shops and taxis that had direct interactions with the visitors were handed out manuals to make travellers feel more welcomed to the city.
According to the manual, the British prefer to be called by their fist names; the Spanish mainly want people to be nice to them and Americans wish to be glued to their devices and want their meals as early as 6 pm.
“The goal is to fight against a bad reputation, and improve the quality of the welcome in Paris,” said François Navarro, the communication director for the tourism board, the Comité Régional du Tourisme Paris Île-de-France. With Paris being one of the most visited cities in the world, he added, “We can do more.”
Yes I Speak Touriste
Taking a step further towards the comfort of the tourists and make them feel at home, the Paris Île-de-France chamber of commerce and the Paris region tourist board introduced “Yes I Speak Touriste” mobile app. Designed especially for the non-French speaking tourists, the app lists all the shops, restaurants and hotels across Paris in an interactive map, based on languages spoken (9 languages) and type of business. The app that can be availed by Android and Apple users, gives the professionals the chance to be referenced based on the languages in which they are proficient and be geo-locatable.
The app, additionally, is driven by a promotion campaign for the international press and at Tourist Information Centres at the Paris Charles de Gaulle and Paris Orly Airports, Galeries Lafayette, Versailles and Disneyland Paris.
“If we nurture together the values that make hospitality, we will show the world that every visitor is welcome here. At the same time, we will be working to drive growth and jobs in the Paris Region,” explains Navarro who is now the general manager of the Paris region tourist board.
As a result of these steps, the tourist perception of the destination has become significantly positive with the satisfaction rate in 2014 reported at 94 per cent. However, there still remain gaps to close specifically among the Asian tourists who where safety is concerned: 58 per cent of Japanese visitors were satisfied, as compared to 54 per cent of Chinese and 44 per cent of Koreans.
“Contrary to popular belief, tourism professionals are very well aware of the importance of proficiency in foreign languages. The Yes I Speak Touriste! application is a perfect illustration of this,” asserted Philippe Demonchy, vicepresident of the Paris CCI, in charge of Tourism.
• Access the complete list of stores by type: apparel, food, beauty and health, art and culture, decoration, services, recreation, hotels, cafés, restaurants, etc.
• View details and helpful info about each shop (address, opening hours, website, etc.)
• Run a search around your position, if you are already in Paris, or near a venue you wish to visit
• Add stores to your Favorites and find them more easily next time around
• Change your selected language at any time. The application is available in Arabic, German, American/British English, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese/Brazilian and Russian
• Help us serve you better by flagging stores that are not able to use your language