In memory of a tourism professional, we had never seen this before! On Thursday, June 19, 2014, four members of the government, including two ministers of state (including a former Prime Minister, Laurent Fabius), fully mobilized to lay the foundations of a new tourism strategy by presenting, in particular, the conclusions of the Assises du tourisme launched last year by Jean-Marc Ayrault and Sylvia Pinel.

The word “strategy” remains a bit strong, however, because it is more about what looks like a Prévert-style inventory than a real plan of conquest organized, planned and followed by the stewardship. We would rather speak of fixes , however very useful.

Because after the demagogic operation of the Assises du tourisme ( see our article on the subject), everyone expected to see the mountain give birth to a starving mouse, barely artificially inflated with hormones. Like always. These meetings, where everyone – professionals, local elected representatives and political figures – came to show more how tourism owed it everything than to really share reflections and seek solutions, were a joke, it must be said. To the credit of their participants, they were imposed on sometimes grotesque subjects, chosen according to criteria from who knows where. By the time the speakers present their CVs and produce their self-satisfaction session, the session had to be closed and we had missed out on the essential. Mass was said.

On the contrary, this gathering of ministers on June 19 to relaunch our national tourism was as unexpected as it was unexpected. It is undoubtedly the main positive politico-tourist event that we have seen for many, many years. Until then, tourism was only seated on a folding seat and its minister or assimilated, was ranked second to last in the government protocol. Without budgetary means, and especially without influence or political power, he could only gesticulate while waiting for nothing to come out. Or so little. There was indeed Hervé Novelli the reformer. But practically everything that appeared under his governance was not successful or was frumpy, and deflated like a bad breath.

A simple com operation?

Is it different this time around? Not necessarily, by the fact that we made announcements of decisions whose implementation would not be visible to most of them for several years . We are not talking about the results produced which will only be hypothetical. Procrastination and “let-in-time-to-time” always work in politics. And then, the French quickly forget.

Not to mention the project to create an umpteenth commission on tourism, the ” Council for the Promotion of Tourism “, which will meet to… meet. We bet that there will unfortunately be no other effect.

At the same time, this government operation – which was “com” but not only – is a little different from what we have known so far. Because this show of force has at least given a boost to the morale of tourism professionals . “Finally, we have the feeling that we are being listened to, that we are taking our problems into account” , we have heard legitimately say here and there. Because we always underestimate the beneficial psychological effect of targeted speeches on the condition that they appear sincere, well orchestrated and supported by reality by heavyweights in politics. Sometimes it doesn’t take more to restart the machine. Even if the majority of French tourism professionals seem to have completely lost interest in this event“Too good to be honest” .

Note the small illustrative sentence of Arnaud Montebourg who aptly declared that “if tourism cannot be relocated, tourists are” . His industry experience has taught him to take this assumption into account.

What is also different is the long list of around 30 decisions announced . They are for the most part concrete, tangible, realistic, even almost too precise, such as improving reception at Roissy airport and at the Gare du Nord in Paris, or even setting up a lane reserved for buses and taxis on the A1 motorway (between Paris and Roissy). Previously, we only knew how to generalize. We understand by this that everything is imagined to welcome more distant international tourists. But above all for the benefit of Paris, already very spoiled in this register.

For the rest, despite this beneficial list of wishes, if not orientations, we obviously remain unsatisfied . The menu whets the appetite and is suggestive, but you can’t see anything coming. Launching the objective of welcoming 100 million foreign tourists by 2020, against 83 million in 2012, is free. We do not know how each other will be able to achieve this with so few aligned resources, except by passively relying on an arrival of additional tourists in France by the natural regular rise in world tourist demand.

It also confirms once again that this latest figure of 83 million foreign tourists would be correct. However, we have been saying it with others for years, the official statistics of the number of international tourist arrivals are exaggerated by at least a quarter, since they wrongly include people in transit and those who only cross the border. France from north to south on our magnificent highways to reach… other destinations. It also includes the 7.3 million foreign visitors to Disneyland Paris who finally accidentally go to France because the park is there; they would of course turn to another country if Mickey’s estate was established there.

It is the word “destination” that is inappropriate about our tourism.

But whatever. What is official is official and no tourism minister will ever be able to rectify this costed coquetry without risking immediate sanction.

And we are talking again about raising awareness of hospitality, as for 20 years

The idea of ​​promoting abroad only flagship French destinations which are renowned there (Paris, Loire châteaux, Normandy, Côte d’Azur, etc.) also seems relevant. But will this oblige other regions, cities, tourist countries to silence their communication / promotion for as much and will this make it possible to muffle a cacophony which blurs the understanding of France abroad? And our millefeuille of CDT, CRT and other tourist institutional communicators, will they finally come together for a homogenization of messages and a dynamic reinforcement of resources?  

We do not know how our governors will manage to raise the awareness of professionals who work with or for tourism (hoteliers, restaurateurs, taxis, traders, etc.) to better welcome foreign tourists and to take into account the fact that the service does not is not to be confused with servitude. This is a subject that has been talked about endlessly and over and over again for over 20 years. In vain. Because achieving a level of natural good reception like that found in London or in major American destinations, for example, does not seem to be possible in France, beyond the luxury sector. It will undoubtedly be necessary to at least see pass a generation to approach it.

Especially since we are at how many awareness campaigns that have never given anything, such as the smoky “Bonjour” almost 10 years old, followed by the improbable “Bienvenue en France” which is also a dark one. failure? The proof: we still feel obliged to speak today about the worries of hospitality and tourist smiles by our compatriots …

Of course, if all these areas of progress wanted by our leaders make sense, it remains to be seen how they will manage to put them in place and how the partners in the sector will happily appropriate them. First, the financial aspects are not settled and the figures seem absent when the State is looking for the slightest euro in the funds of drawers or pockets. We must remember among other utopias the crash of the hotel modernization plan which did not allow the sector to achieve it, to modernization. Funding by Oséo and today BPI France is not accessible to the majority of professionals who need it ( see our article on the subject ).

We can also blame this approach for betting everything on distant foreign tourists, of whom we understand that the Chinese are in the spotlight. They are only 1.2 million arrivals for the moment in France, or 1.1% of international demand to France, out of an estimated global volume of 400 million Chinese travelers outside China. However, Europeans represent more than 2/3 of the demand. All, far from it, do not go through Roissy and the Gare du Nord to enter France. And there is little talk of domestic tourism, which is also remunerative even if it is not foreign trade, which represents 2/3 of hotel nights, not to mention overnight stays in other accommodation and in non-market accommodation.

The need for a more precise diagnosis

Finally, what about Atout France which always asks for more resources but whose functioning we do not audit to really know what should be qualitatively changed in his work, which sometimes looks like a barrel of the Danaïdes.

In short, the ministers’ approach is – finally – commendable and can only reassure their apparent taking into account and understanding of the tourism sector with its 7 to 8% of GDP (according to estimates) and its 2 million direct jobs and indirect. But, we were waiting for a real strategic plan which would affect all aspects of our French tourism – the list is long – and which would affect all of its customers, and not just distant internationals, first of all the Chinese – these buying ants – that everyone world wants to see as our future. To say that in a way, Jean Yanne had been a visionary with his film “The Chinese in Paris” in 1973 without talking directly about tourism …  

The Committee for the Modernization of French Hotels and Tourism is in any case happy that its work has been recognized by the government. Laurent Fabius cited the many works that we publish on the difficulty of making a hotel with less than 35 rooms profitable and especially on the need to help the French hotel industry to modernize, which we have been talking about constantly since our creation in 2006 and which had been the original reason for the foundation of our association. Many other observations have been taken up directly or indirectly in our White Paper on Hotel and Tourist Modernization , which serves as a warning tool and a force for proposals.

But if seeing is a (good) thing, we must now go, roll up our sleeves and win the challenge of making our tourism offer more attractive and more attractive. We all want it and have waited too long for it. So much the better if now this desire is shared by our political leaders. But, this is probably not enough, because more than 9 tourism operators out of 10 are micro-enterprises.

This atomization makes the tourist branch very fragile and complicated to mobilize without incentives and without powerful encouragement. Because up to now, professionals have mainly experienced imposed regulations, ridiculous standards, heavy constraints and obligations as costly as they are unproductive, even unnecessary. But without much help or stimulation. Will the movement finally be reversed?

Reminder of announcements made by ministers on HR-Infos .

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