Rouen and Normandy hosted the 12th Rendez-vous en France Travel Market from March 28-29, 2017. On the sidelines of the tourism trade fair organised by Atout France, France Tourism Development Agency, TRAVTALK spoke to Sheetal Munshaw, India Director, Atout France, on the growth of Indian tourists in the country and the factors behind it.
Q Has there been a surge in Indian arrivals to France? I am very happy to say that since I have taken charge, the number of Indian tourist arrivals in France has been on the uphill. In 2015, we witnessed a 45.8 per cent rise, wherein, we went from 365,000 travellers to 500,000. The 2016 figures are still awaited. However, what we do know from the indications of visa statistics is that, there has been over 15-30 per cent growth over 2015. So we are very optimistic about 2016. The first quarter of 2017 has already shown an increase of 20-35 per cent in visa statistics depending on the areas like Mumbai, Pondicherry or Delhi. Also what is very encouraging for us is that we have seen a boost in the regional presence of France in the itineraries of the Indian travel agents and tour operators. They are doing things differently, showcasing different regions of France.
Q What are the reasons for this phenomenal growth? Atout France is promoting the destination as differently as possible. We have had the ‘Be There, Do That,’ campaign for three years with an aim to showcase France differently. We then launched the campaign, ‘Made in Paris’ last year and this year, we launched the campaign, ‘Made in France.’ The idea is to take it to the next level and talk about not only different experiences but experiences that are authentic to France. In addition to that, we launched our global strategy which is called ‘Marques Mondiales’. We have handpicked certain brands which we think will allow us to ride on the wave and leverage on the brand to better position France to create better destination awareness. On the other hand, we have identified our ‘Pôles d’excellence’ which for example is our gourmandise, mountains, nightlife, fashion, shopping, etc. We work very closely with the Ministry of Tourism and External Affairs, and at the Embassy and Consular level with VFS, to ensure that there is seamless facilitation of visas. Today, there is a 48-hour deliverance of visas. Despite the implementation of biometrics in November 2015, we have seen there has been no change in the ease of delivery and swiftness of the process. We have 14 centres in addition to four Consulates and an Embassy which makes 19 points of contact and its growing. In addition to that, we are also working on the French side where we acclimatise the French suppliers and travel professionals with what to do to be better received by Indian travellers. We launched the first online training programme in France for Asian market in which India was a big part. They have access to a training programme where they can better acquaint themselves with the specificities of our market. We also launched a dedicated 200-page guide on how to welcome Indian clients. Also, we launched an Indian wedding guide, because we saw a surge in Indian weddings in France across different regions. In fact, Monaco had three Indian weddings last year.
Q How do you see the change in travellers’ profile from India? We’ve seen a lot of development especially with groups spending around 3-5 nights in Paris, which is a big leap. We’ve also seen a huge surge in the incentive market. We received the largest incentive group in December 2015. FITs is something where we have seen the largest growth. We have definitely seen Indian honeymooners, families, couples and affinity travellers with just women travelling together. We have even started to work on the youth market. This has also benefited us in enhancing our seasonality because earlier it was just the Indian summer where France sought tourism while today; there is tourism throughout the year.
Q Tell us about Atout France’s marketing strategy? Social Media is something we are getting more active in. it has become a very important part of our global strategy. The world is going digital and this is the best way for us to communicate with all our audiences across the board. We noticed through the launch of movie Befikre and the testimonial that we got from Ranveer Singh which gave us more than two million hits. Also, we have moved to the site.fr recently which is a huge plus for us.
“The first quarter of 2017 has already shown an increase of 20-35 percent in visa statistics depending on the areas like Mumbai, Pondicherry or Delhi”
– Sheetal Munshaw, India Director, Atout France