Paris is looking ahead to a brighter future, as tourists start returning to the city in greater numbers.
The French capital suffered a sharp drop in visitor numbers following the terrorist atrocities of November 2015. But speaking to Travel Daily on Thursday (18 May 2017), François Navarro, Managing Director of the Paris Region Tourist Board, said that business in Paris is now picking up and that the city is looking forward to hosting a series of major international events in the coming years.
“In 2016 we lost 1.5 million visitors, especially from markets like China and Japan, due to security… and economic issues,” Navarro revealed. “But in the first quarter of 2017 we are already 13% up year-on-year. What happened in Paris could have happened anywhere, and people understand this.”
It is worth noting that while Paris “lost” 1.5m visitors in 2016, this comes from a total of approximately 46m. And France as a whole remained the world’s most visited country in 2016, welcoming more than 80m international travellers.
To help drive the city’s recovery, Paris has embarked on an EUR8m (US$8.9m) campaign to draw visitors back to the city. This funding, Navarro told Travel Daily, will cover a series of promotional activities, with a strong focus on the Asian travel trade.
“We’re holding B2B workshops and fam trips; we have welcomed a lot of tour operators and travel agents to Paris. We also work very closely with airline companies,” he added, “to ensure visitors get the best fares.”
And Paris is focusing its promotional efforts on a series of key Asian markets. “The first one is China… then we have South Korea, Indonesia and Japan. And also you have Thailand and Singapore, which are very important markets for us,” Navarro said.
And while the immediate focus for Paris is to recover the visitor numbers lost in 2016, Paris is also looking forward as it bids to position itself as a city for major international events. The French capital will host golf’s Ryder Cup in 2018, and it is also bidding for the 2024 Summer Olympics and 2025 World Expo.
“Our first objective is to tell people that Paris is a city that is ready to welcome big events. The Olympic Committee just left Paris and yes, we are confident,” Navarro told us. “And a year after in 2025 we are attempting to host the World Expo, which is also huge and lasts six months, so this will be very important.”
Any future success however, depends on Paris remaining a stable and secure destination for international travellers. But the recent presidential election in France appears – in the short-term at least – to have brought a new sense of confidence to the country.
“[The election] was very interesting to us; we were on the front pages of international newspapers and magazines. We realised that the whole world was waiting for our elections, and this was very strange for us. But France is a very special destination for many people,” he told Travel Daily.
“We have asked our tourism professionals and 69% of them are very confident in the future. We think that the American market is very strong, and this is very important to us; the Chinese market will come back in June and July for summer, and we are waiting for the ASEAN market. We are quietly confident that this will be a very good summer for France,” he concluded.