PARIS — With France set to be the most visited country in the world by 2025, the 16th edition of Rendez-Vous en France couldn’t have been better timed (although some would argue, between strikes and protests, not so much). As the French tourism industry’s premier event for international B2B trade, the show went on, and welcomed more than 1,800 tourism pros at the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles conference centre in the 15th arrondissement.
Using the bespoke www.rendezvousenfrance.pro scheduling system, more than 26,000 meetings were booked. Air France and SNCF provided transportation that brought 786 international tour operators to meet with 660 French exhibitors, and 26 members of the media from around the world were also on hand to experience the country with more than a dozen pre-fam trips for both media and tour operators.
“My participation at the Atout France event was very beneficial,” Serge Malaison, co-founder and Managing Director of the Quebec City-based Voyages Centaure, told Travelweek. “It has allowed me to meet with multiple business partners with whom we will be working closely in 2024 to offer the most exclusive France itineraries.”
The Atout France Canada team, he added, helped to maximize his service provider meetings and introduction opportunities. “Service providers with whom we will be seeking to build strong business partnerships,” he said. “The framework allowed us to benefit the most from every event workshop.”
Kristine Geary, President and CEO of Kingston-based Maple Leaf Tours, which is a certified Aboriginal business, appreciated the chance to network with like-minded people. “I was impressed with the vast array of suppliers and wealth of information – and also a great opportunity to connect with other travel professionals.”
France saw record international tourism revenues – €58 billion – in 2022, with most of the visitors coming from other parts of Europe and America.
“It is always so valuable to experience places firsthand and the opportunity to participate in a pre-fam for Rendez-Vous en France was tremendous,” Susan Minns, Partnership and Opportunities Creator at The Divine Destination Collection in Toronto, told Travelweek. “And, to then spend two days meeting with tourism suppliers was excellent. The quality of the offerings was first rate and the event was very well organized.”
2024 OLYMPICS & MORE
This year, sustainable tourism was at the forefront of the conference, as well as sports tourism. With the Rugby World Cup later this year, and the upcoming 2024 Olympic and Paralympic games, it’s no wonder visitation numbers are on the rise.
Normandy will also be buzzing in 2024, for the 150th anniversary of the Impressionist movement, which, combined with Paris, is where such artists as Claude Monet and Auguste Renoir were inspired to pick up their paints. Next year also marks the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings during the Second World War, with special events for remembrance travel.
Along with sustainable themes, Atout France also put a focus on inclusive tourism. Europe, with its cobblestone streets and untouchable historic architecture, can be a challenge for some. This year, exhibitors were also chosen for meeting the Tourisme & Handicaps certification (https://tourisme-handicaps.org/), which is a designation given by the non-profit organization that is made up of both tourism pros and disability experts, and guarantees services and equipment are accessible according to national standards.
At the press conferences, media were taken on a ‘Dream Big, Live Slow’ journey through more than a dozen regions of France. Each representative gave a snapshot of how their area is in keeping with the theme. One always dreams big when it comes to French, farm-to-table food and wine, of course. Northern France, for example, is this year’s European Region of Gastronomy – the first of the French regions to be designated as such. There are also gentler-footprint cycling, hiking and walking tours – Forest Bathing in the Vosges Massif in Alsace, or the pursuit of carbon-neutrality at The Baie de Somme, for example.
The Olympics, however, was really the starting point of the day’s conversation. Medal-winning athlete Thierry Rey, the Paris 2024 Special Advisor, launched into the program with an Olympics by the numbers: from 54 sports (32 Olympic and 22 Paralympic) to 15,000 athletes to welcoming 206 countries, Paris will be on the world stage.
Fabrice Favetto-Bon, the Paris 2023 General Manager for On Location (the official hospitality provider), followed with what the offering for agents will look like. A centralized global sales model has been created, where fans and agents can buy packages from a single provider, and the Paris Games will be the first to use this system (followed by Milan in February 2026, and Los Angeles in 2028).
A sub-distribution sales network has been set up across the globe, and allows guests and agents to purchase packages – including tickets – without the risk of fraud or over-charging. Everything will be digital, and more than 90% of the sports events can be bundled with offerings such as hotels (Accor is a partner) and local happenings; access to special clubs and events pre- and post-Olympics; and more, take your pick.
In Canada, Montreal-based ATPI Corporate Travel and Events Solutions (atpi.ca/) is the chosen partner, but for more information, agents can visit: hospitalitytravelpackages.paris2024.org; olympics.onlocationexp.com/paris2024/; or B2B clients hospitality platform: https://corporatehospitality.paris2024.org
For air travel to the City of Light, Air France, with its daily flights and updated premium economy offering is an option. The seats swivel forward, along with an automatic footrest, rather than reclining. And there’s Champagne at meal service, of course. airfrance.ca/en/
For more, go to Atout France’s dedicated Canadian tourist site: https://ca.france.fr/en. Atout France can also be found on social media: #explorefrance Instagram: @france.fr, Facebook: @CA.france.fr