Sheetal Munshaw Director, Atout France
Promoting signature tourism brands
An increase in experiential travelling, overseas wedding and luxury holidaying is making France give the Indian trotters their desired experiences and promote lesser tapped regions.
What are the new elements, attractions and activities presented by Atout France in 2016/2017? Any
particular focus ?
Our recently launched global strategy lays emphasis on highlighting signature tourism brands in France or “Marques Mondiales”. These include regions such as Alsace, Alpes-Mont Blanc, Biarritz Pays Basques, Burgundy, Brittany, Bordeaux, Cote d’Azur, Corsica, Champagne, Languedoc- Mediterranean, Lyon, Normandy, Provence, Paris, Toulouse-Pyrenees and the Loire Valley. There will be an accent on France’s areas of expertise or “poles d’excellence” that include wine tourism, ecotourism, sports, the French Alps, the French savoir-faire and nightlife. These facets will be consistently interwoven and incorporated across marketing initiatives in a very concerted and focused manner and send out key messages to enhance the recall of France as a leading tourism destination.
Atout France has been aggressively targeting the Indian market for about 10 years now, what has been the evolution, how do your foresee this market, any specificities you would like to talk about ?
From travelling in large group tours to discovering destinations independently with families or friends, the Indian traveller has evolved and so has France’s positioning in keeping with the changing trends. The contemporary Indian globe trotter has an insatiable appetite for experiential travel allowing for France to showcase its wealth of innovative and exclusive travel experiences to offer. Today’s Indian traveller prefers curated experiences in sync with his requirements. The holidaymaker does not want to compromise on the quality of services and does not mind paying a bit more to ensure his comfort. We have seen a rise in the number of luxury seekers visiting France for specific experiences such as wine and culinary trails, shopping or relaxation and well-being. Current trends also indicate that overseas travel is not restricted traditionally to summer holidays alone. Travel aficionados prefer to stagger their holidays over a year and take regular short escapades. The trend of overseas weddings has seen a surge and this augurs well for destinations such as France which have a variety of picturesque locales that lend themselves as idyllic backdrops for weddings.
The ease and accessibility of information has led the traveller to research on his preferred destination. While we see an upswing in bookings online, we notice that the role of the quintessential travel agent has not diminished. Travellers prefer to still seek the travel agent’s counsel on booking specificities, logistics and other aspects of his travel.
Last year we discussed about the emergence of new French regions as destinations for the Indian market, how is the progression in promoting them? How do you help them?
There has been a growing interest in newer regions that have made in-roads into the Indian market.
Our annual travel showcase, Rendezvous en France, this year will see many new entrants foraying into the rapidly evolving Indian market. This includes ski resorts from the Auvergne-Rhone Alpes regions such as Val Thorens, Meribel, Morzine and Les 2 Alpes. In addition to Chamonix Mont Blanc which is one of the top 3 most visited destinations for the Indian traveller, the presence of these ski resorts at our showcase will fortify our objective on enhancing winter tourism which is a niche yet rapidly developing domain. We also have an incoming destination management company from Corsica made famous thanks to the Bollywood blockbuster Tamasha that was shot partly on location in this region.
Travel agents increasingly showcase different regions in France that were not on the Indian traveller’s map only a few years ago. These include Midi Pyrenees, La Baule, Deauville, Champagne, Picardly to name a few …
As Atout France we seamlessly play the role of a catalyst and facilitate the regions in making a foray into the Indian market through sales visits, familiarisation trips, campaigns, bespoke events to name a few ways in which we promote the regions. We have also launched the first ever MOOC (Massive Online Course) in association with Tourisme Academy to better educate and acquaint the French travel fraternity with the specificities of the Indian market and how to cater to the same.
What are your objectives in terms of figures for the upcoming season?
2015 has been a hallmark year for Indian outbound arrivals into France taking it to the half a million mark with an enhancement of 35 % over 2014. The seamless visa facilitation procedures instated since January 2015 have maintained France in a leading position. We are hopeful to maintain our growth rate of about 15% for 2016.
France has been the target of numerous attacks, was the Indian tourist inflow impacted by these tragic events? What is your message to Indian tourists ?
Tourism did witness a slump post November 2015 to some extent in Paris. Regions in France were significantly less impacted. India as a market proved to be a resilient one with stable influx of tourists into France. Incidentally one of the largest if not the largest Indian incentive movement of 2200 pax maintained their stay in Paris in early December 2015 post the tragic events. The unprecedented attack in Nice and other events in Europe have seen cancellations or postponement of travel plans to Europe. We consistently appraise the travel fraternity and media about security measures being undertaken in France to ensure the safety and security of tourists and to enable them to better plan their clients’ holidays in France.