Friday,  January 27, 2023  10:35 pm

France blooms in Toronto

France blooms in Toronto
Pieter de Man, director of business development, Air France-KLM; Mélanie Paul-Hus, director - Canada, Atout France; Marc Trouyet, consul general of France in Toronto.

The annual Destination France roadshow arrived in Toronto last night, with Atout France’s director – Canada, Mélanie Paul-Hus, describing it as a ‘key moment’ for the organization to connect with both French and local suppliers.

The evening's theme, 'Bloom' was apt, given France's continuing resurgence in the wake of the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. Paul-Hus said that with an 11 per cent increase in Canadian visitors to France registered in 2016, the preliminary signs are also encouraging for 2017, although official figures are not yet available.

“In 2017, France was back on track,” she remarked. “Not only did it catch up with the losses for the previous year; estimations lead us to think that it will have exceeded the good results of 2015 prior to the attacks, with between 88 and 89 million foreign tourist arrivals.”

Mélanie Paul-Hus, director - Canada, Atout France.

France’s rapid recovery since the attack, Paul-Hus noted, had been spearheaded by an effective strategy led by the French government, aimed at creating “a healthy and fair environment for all tourism professionals to further improve the quality of public services, while also making sure these services contribute to making the tourism offer more attractive.”

The approach, she said, had set France in good stead to capture a growing share of tourists worldwide in the coming years – with Atout France targeting 100 million international tourist arrivals in 2020, and €50 billion to be spent by visitors. “Knowing that global tourism should continue to grow strongly in the coming years,” she commented, “the potential for development and job creation within the sector in France is enormous.”

‘France is in the air’

Air France-KLM’s Pieter de Man, director of business development - Canada, touted revamps to the company’s Flying Blue loyalty program, set to come into operation on April 1. The changes will see passengers earn miles according to their level within the program, based on different categories – four per euro spent in the Ivory level, six per euro in the silver category, seven in gold, and eight in platinum.

Pieter de Man, director of business development - Canada, Air France-KLM.

While highlighting the company’s commitment to its digital approach, de Man also said that its ‘human touch’ was crucial, with the airline offering a distinctive French experience – and wine and champagne service in all classes.

St. Martin recovery continues

Also in attendance at the event were Kate Richardson and Alex Pierre, president and vice-president, respectively, of St. Martin’s tourism office. The duo provided updates on the island’s recovery following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Irma, with Pierre saying that it was ‘on its way to a smooth opening’ after the storm.

St. Martin is on the cusp of the most crucial stage of its recovery, Pierre commented, with the island having inaugurated its ambitious 10-year plan for reconstruction and tourism development last November. Among its goals include strengthening and developing its marriage tourism sector, cultivating an upscale sports sector along coastal areas, and focusing on powerful themes such as ecotourism, culinary discovery, and health and wellness.

Alex Pierre, vice-president, St. Martin Tourist Office; Kate Richardson, director, St. Martin Tourist Office.

Both emphasized that St. Martin is very much open for business, with some hotel rooms and numerous guest houses and villas having recently reopened. WestJet’s direct service from Toronto to the island will return on April 23, with other major Canadian airlines currently assessing the situation with a view to resuming flights in the near future.

Ultimately, Pierre said, St. Martin’s response to the crisis had demonstrated its spirit and resilience to the world, with roads, beaches and businesses having reopened and Grand Case International Airport swiftly recommencing flights in the wake of Irma. “We have turned a disaster into a triumph,” he commented.

“St. Martin will smile again.”

Winners from the evening

Award winners announced during the event included Globus, who walked away with the Product of the Year award, and TravelBrands, whose Vice-President, Product Development Elvi Cal accepted the Partner of the Year award.