France Steps up Wooing Middle East Travelers: Big Spends by Regional Tourists Prompts Focus on High-end Segment

Published May 5th, 2010 - 02:20 GMT

France, the world’s leading destination for travel and tourism which attracted over 74 million tourists in 2009, is sharpening its focus on high-net worth travelers from the Middle East and Near East as part of raising its stake in wooing outbound tourists from the region which currently stands a little over 725,000.

A statement from the state-owned French tourism body, Atout France Near & Middle East, recently rebranded from Maison de la France, said Middle and Near East travelers tend to stay longer and loosen their purse strings more compared to their counterparts from several other countries and this demanded a more strategic effort to aggressively target the high-end segment.

“Travelers from the Middle East and Near East are high contributors to the economy of France tourism in terms of their liberal spending habits and long stays and we believe that their share in the global outbound flows to our country is as yet not unlocked fully,” said Mr. Karim  Mekachera, Director of Atout France, Near and Middle East Regional Office.

Though travelers from the region are one of the top contributors to the coffers of the tourism revenue of France they still only account for just 2 per cent of the country’s total tourist arrivals.
“We believe this share can easily go up as France presents new destinations and offer the best of attractions in the world,” Mr. Karim said.

He said the average stay of a tourist from the region is to the tune of 11 days and is amongst the largest tenure compared to other world travelers to France. Travelers from the GCC dominate the share of outbound travelers from the Middle and Near East. In the GCC, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait contribute a major share in the regional tourist outbound flow to France.

The Tourism economy worldwide has seen a slowdown due to the current financial crisis. While 2008 was a fairy good year for tourist arrivals to France, there has been a significant drop of 6 percent in the first half of 2009 from the Middle East travelers, while the tourism authorities perceive a positive growth on outbound travel to France in the near future.

According to World Tourism Organization forecasts, there could be significant growth in the outbound tourism from the region with a total of 35 million tourists flying out to international destinations by 2020, which will raise the region’s market share in this category to 2.2 percent compared to 1.5 per cent in 1995.

WTO statistics point to a US $ 20 billion spending on outbound travels from the region which a major chunk coming from Saudi Arabia. GCC alone represents some 60 percent of the outbound travel market while Egypt has a 20 percent share and the rest is spread across other countries of the region. By 2020, the most important growth from the region will come from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Kuwait and Lebanon.

 “What is of significance is that travelers from the region are high-end clientele for France’s tourism and this realization will be the base for our onward strategy to woo the affluent bitten by the travel bug from the Middle and Near East,” Mr. Karim said, adding that A Tout France Middle East is in the throes of rolling out a series of meaningful promotional activities to present the compelling charm and diversity to the region’s travel community.

A major share of the current traveler profile from the region is families, couples and youth while the new marketing strategy of Atout France will give more significance to attracting leisure travelers while the second focus will be on business travelers.

France is also set to announce a new five-year tourism strategy for 2010-2015 which will seek to reinforce the country’s preeminence as the top destination through new infrastructure development as well as at a later stage unveiling new destinations opening up  attractions in Rhone Alps, Bordeaux etc…. complementing the known  and traditional attractions of Paris  and the French Riveira.

This year Atout France coupled with a huge representative delegation of 32 partners from across France is participating in Arabian Travel Market (ATM) held in Dubai from 4th -7th May, 2010. ATM 2010 is a platform for the French Tourism Body to raise awareness for their partners present and reveal some of their promotional activities to increase destination visibility to prospective travelers across the region. To increase prospects for interested travelers from the UAE, Air France has introduced a new sector with direct flights from Abu Dhabi to Paris, five times a week with effect from 3rd May 2010.  

The delegation partners present at ATM 2010 are Deauville Tourist Office, Hotel Le Bristol Paris, The Hotel Napoleon Paris ,Hotels & Residences Roy – Hotel California,- Concorde Hotels & Resorts, The Plaza Elysees BW Hotel Paris,  Bridgestreet Accommodation Paris ,  Lucien Barriere Group ,Venus Tours, Chabe Limousines, Disneyland Paris, Air France-KLM group, Printemps , Galeries Lafayette, Rhone-Alpes Tourism ,The Imperial Palace , Evian-les-Bains Tourist Office,     Hilton Evian-les-Bains, Evian Royal Resort, Lodge Montagnard ,Imperial Palace,Deluxe Hotel Collection, Cannes Tourist Office, Eden Hotel,Grand Hotel, the 1835 White Palm Hotel,Nice Tourist Office, Negresco Hotel, Boscolo Exedra Nice, Saint Tropez Tourist Office, Hotel Byblos and  Chateau de la Messardiere.

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