France seeks to lure tourists with better welcome
By Jessica Chen
PARIS (Reuters) - France, the world's top tourism draw, on Thursday announced a scheme to lure in even more tourists with a fund intended to boost everything from hotels to its wine heritage, and urged the French to be more welcoming.
With the attractions of the capital Paris, its Loire Valley chateaux, Alpine ski resorts, Riviera beaches and gastronomic pleasures, France has been the world's most visited country since the 1980s, welcoming 84 million tourists last year.
It hopes to boost that to 100 million by 2020, banking on a sector that already employs 2 million to contribute more to growth in the euro zone's second largest economy, still struggling to shake off a downturn.
"Tourism is a national treasure that needs to be protected, nurtured and developed - that's the aim of all these measures," Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said of the launch in coming months of a Tourism Investment Fund (FIT).
In a reference to the sometimes gruff welcome offered to tourists by the natives, Fabius said a humorous publicity campaign would be launched, encouraging the French to improve service levels and help out tourists when they could.
"To put it diplomatically, we have room for improvement here ... When we come up against a foreign tourist, we are all ambassadors for France," Fabius said.
Consumption by tourists in France, including by the French themselves, accounts for no less than 7 percent of national output. But France's visitors spend less than they do elsewhere, a fact which even prompted a government inquiry in 2013.