A favourite through the decades, France continues to be one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. The wine, the croissants, the fashion, the lifestyle…all that, and more make the dream-like character exuded by this European country. It’s not just new travellers making their way every year, but hordes of repeat visitors returning to the sense of carefree yet enriched way of life in France. What allure does this country hold? We get talking to Sheetal Munshaw, Director of Atout France, at the ongoing Luxury Lifestyle Weekend to find the answer and gain her insights on what France has to offer to tourists in the coming times.
What elements contribute to the country maintaining its position as a top travel destination?
1. The country’s inherent art de vivre that gives it a distinct edge over its contemporaries and is an integral part of its daily life.
2. Its world renowned gastronomy which has earned it a place of pride on the UNESCO List of World Intangible Heritage. And its array of wines distinctive of the region from which they originate.
3. The undisputed King of Wines, champagne is an authentic French product, that is made only France.
Its signature tourism destinations such as Champagne, Provence, Paris, Lyon, the Alpes Mont Blanc, the Côte d’Azur to name a few, which are popular all over the world and attract a large number of visitors.
4. It’s rich cultural heritage and its stunning collection of 44 UNESCO World Heritage Sites that are living testimonials of France’s glorious past.
5. Its repertoire of indulgent experiences that woo its travellers in search of the unique and the offbeat: Helicopter discoveries of alpine summits, soothing spa breaks in Vichy – the queen of spa towns, vinotherapy treatments near Bordeaux, private wine tastings and dinners in prestigious champagne cellars in the region of Champagne, personalised shopping experiences in Paris and lots more.
How do you reinvent in order to keep the millennial traveller interested?
The idea is essentially to showcase authentic facets of France that resonate with this genre of travellers and also be visible on platforms most frequented by millennials.
Our aim is to showcase trendy experiences and dispel stereotypical references that young travellers may have of France. Case in point being nightlife options in Paris that include so much more than just cabarets and dinner cruises on the Seine. The sparkling City of Lights is a haven for night owls and offers an eclectic selection of bars, pubs, discotheques, and trendy restaurants. Through targeted marketing and communication initiatives, we seek to engage with this breed of travellers. The Opening Night at the Luxury Lifestyle Weekend was a perfect platform to acquaint the invitees with glimpses of how the Parisians like to party. Social media and other digital platforms are also a powerful tool to showcase our wealth of experiences apt for this audience such as adventure activities, sporting events, authentic experiences best experienced with a local.
How does the travel industry contribute to responsible tourism, and what can the travellers do on their part to further the cause?
As a responsible fraternity, the onus is on the travel industry to successfully and consciously integrate the message of sustainable and responsible tourism. It is crucial for all of us to conserve and preserve our planet and through strong initiatives taken by our fraternity, we can set stellar examples. Let us also integrate the concept of promoting tourism responsibly and avoid over-cluttering monuments and historic sites that already see a huge influx of visitors daily. It is also essential to lend support to local artisans and local producers so that they benefit commercially.
You’re looking to welcome over 100 million tourists in 2020. What steps have been taken to ensure this number?
A slew of proactive measures have helped us enhance numbers to France. A big positive step is the issuance of visas within 48 hours from the date of submission. This measure has seamlessly helped facilitate travel to France and increase numbers. Aerial connectivity to France has also increased with the destination being accessible from almost all parts of the world. The main hub for international arrivals, Paris CDG, is also constantly reinventing itself to adapt and cater better to the needs of an evolving clientele. France has in the recent past, also hosted international events such as the Ryder Cup, the Euro 2016 tournament etc which help augment arrivals. With Paris hosting the 2024 Olympics, we are confident of increased arrivals from all over the globe.
With the increasing number of Indian tourists, what advancements has the tourism board made to make France an even more enjoyable experience for them?
We’ve made concerted efforts to educate our French partners about the specificities of Indian travellers. Through an online training module, we’ve engaged with a large audience of the French travel fraternity and have been able to explain more about the needs and requirements of the current Indian traveller. Amongst other key areas, we’ve also focused on cuisine as that is an important part of travel especially for vegetarians.
What are the 5 lesser known enchanting French experiences that travellers must try?
Chateaux stays, visiting France’s most beautiful villages, the lavender trail in Provence, signing up for a cooking class with a chef, taking on a vineyard experience, meeting and interacting with local wine-growers and raising a toast to the effervescent bubbly in Champagne!
According to you, what role does LLW play in bringing together India’s luxury community and advance the luxe lifestyle in the country?
LLW has put India on the map as far as luxury is concerned. There is now greater awareness about the appetite for luxury that exists in India and the fact that the discerning Indian consumer is willing to invest in indulgent experiences and luxury brands. For the end consumer, this showcase brings together the best of luxury brands all under one roof, creating many opportunities to interface with potential consumers. For a tourism board like ours, LLW helps create synergies with direct consumers and helps us understand better the needs and requirements of this discerning audience. For us, the showcase is as much about experiences as it is about merchandising.
The Luxury Lifestyle Weekend is on from February 22 to 24 at Jio Garden, BKC, Mumbai.
All images: Courtesy Luxury Lifestyle Weekend.