France: Questions and Answers

Jean-Pierre Courteau talks with Travel Weekly contributing editor Carla Hunt about the French Government Tourist Office's marketing programs and plans.

TW: In recent years, the French Government Tourist Office [FGTO] has greatly expanded its marketing of the French provinces. Will you comment on the success of this effort?

Courteau: Paris is still the No. 1 destination for U.S. travelers. However, since two-thirds of those travelers are repeat visitors, quite naturally they want to see more and more of France. Beyond Paris, Provence is the most popular region, and Burgundy this past year enjoyed a 22% increase in U.S. visitors.

And the provinces have stepped up efforts to market their assets. Last May, Southwest France opened a promotion office in our New York headquarters, joining three other regional offices: Western France, the Rhone-Alps and Eastern France. All have been very active in our trade show and training programs, as well as in issuing sales guides and working with travel agents through seminars and fam trips.

TW: You have said that agents need a lot of information to sell France as profitably as possible. How does the FGTO assist them?

Courteau: In addition to our travel agents' dedicated information lines, we have our own Web site [www.francetourism.com] with hotlinks to tour operator products. We are active on Sabre.

We publish the bimonthly Focus on France newsletter for agents and an annual reference roundup of tour products in the marketplace, and just issued is our 1998 France Discovery Guide, which continues and expands our promotional focus on active, more adventurous travel, introduced last year. This guide is a good sales and learning tool for agents, and copies may be ordered to give to clients who will find dozens of new -- and commissionable -- ways to enjoy France.

TW: Will the U.S. travel industry soon be hearing about Strasbourg, host city for the the ASTA World Congress in 1999?

Courteau: Kickoff for ASTA '99 will come at this year's convention in Los Angeles, where we will have more exhibition space and devote more of that space to the Eastern France provinces in general and Alsace and Strasbourg, its capital, in particular. There will be a gala Alsatian evening during the Congress, and October will also mark the opening of a trade promotion campaign of seminars and special mailings that focus on Alsace.

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