French Minister Matthias Fekl explains the irrepressible appeal of this major European destination
Matthias Fekl , Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of Tourism and French Nationals Abroad, is we l l – placed to guide ITB Berlin News through the current state of tourism in France:
With an estimated 82.5million tourist visitors in 2016, France is the world’s leading tourist destination thanks to the beauty and diversity of its landscapes and its wealth of cultural and gastronomic heritage. Not to mention the professionalism of its tourism stakeholders who ensure visitors receive a great welcome. In France, our tourism ambition is national and the country is mobilized together behind one great goal: receiving 100 million tourists per year by 2020.
What are you doing to help achieve this ambitious goal?
The arrival conditions for visitors in France have been facilitated and improved considerably. In addition to issuing tourist visas within 48 hours in most countries, we have i m p r ov e d information in our airports, our public transport and at tourist attractions by designing simpler, more easily-understood multilingual signs. We have also facilitated travel between Paris and its airports by establishing affordable, fixed and preset taxi prices both ways. In France’s main tourism and shopping areas, shops now open on Sundays and over wider periods in the evening. Indeed, shopping is a factor that contributes to tourists choosing to visit France.
Are you focusing on any specific products or destinations?
“Destination contracts” and “centres of tourism excellence” seek to promote the beauty, wealth and diversity of our regions, and to give tourists a desire to see new places throughout France. We have 42 UNESCO World Heritage sites. A map of our world-renowned chefs, restaurants and bistros offers a genuine travel plan in itself; likewise the appeal of our vineyards and wine tourism. France’s tourism offer also includes ecotourism, which is taking off, and the beauty of our mountains and coastlines. The available river and sea cruises, for example, have been developed considerably, for we have 8,500 km of navigable rivers and canals, and 5,500 km of coast, in addition to our overseas territories in the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, between New Caledonia and Polynesia. That is the second-largest maritime area in the world.
Naturally, international t ravel l e rs wi l l have security fears. How can you reassure them?
We have also done a lot of work to ensure the safety of our visitors. Additional police forces have been deployed across the country. The major tourist sites and department stores have also had their security enhanced.