France will do (almost) anything for your tourism dollars

Written by admin on July 15, 2009 – 5:16 pm -

Tourism in France is down by 17 percent since January compared with the same time period in 2008. The government wants people back and is going all out to try to seduce them to return.

Airfares are at an all-time recent low (if you’re flexible) and adept at surfing the Internet. There are so many hotel and package deals to be had, that if you have any interest in visiting France, now’s the ideal time – if you have the time and the money.

Restaurants have lowered the VAT (value added tax) to 5.5 percent from 19.6 percent. That will make a dramatic difference on the bottom line when it comes to dining out. Even though I find it hard to believe, the rule is the tip is even included.

In a survey conductor by in May, the findings were that France is the most overrated country in Europe and the second-most expensive. In addition, the French are perceived as being unfriendly.

That hasn’t been my experience. But I’m prejudiced.

To counter the slump and boost revenues, the tourist board has set up stands manned by teams of “smile ambassadors” to welcome tourists at some of Paris’s most popular spots. Hundreds of roller-skaters gathered at Place Vendome and formed a giant smile.

Two holiday rental groups, Pierre et Vacances and FranceLoc, are even offering weather insurance if there are four days of rain during a one-week rental period. That might be an excellent investment since France’s weather can be uncertain especially in these days of global warming.

Herv Kayser, who conceived the insurance idea, told French daily newspaper Le Figaro, that in a trial run last year, 10 percent of the people who bought the insurance policy received rebates due to rain.

But back to the smiles; this isn’t the first program of its sort. Tourism officials launched a program approximately fifteen years ago where it encouraged people working in the hospitality industry to smile and learn English. Perhaps the downturn in business has caused people to be grumpy and they need to be reminded.

Paul Roll, Director of the tourist board, said “If we want tourism, which has generated more than two million jobs to remain a leading sector in the French economy, everyone has to make visitors feel welcome including professionals, elected representatives and the French public.”

As much as I fear asking this question, have you found the French rude? Anymore than if you were a foreigner going to New York or another U.S. city where people didn’t speak your language and they didn’t speak English?

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis.

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