Catching Up With Atout France

Anne-Laure Tuncer, the director of Atout France USA, visited Travel Agent’s New York offices recently to tell us what’s happening in France.

The agency has been promoting some less-traveled regions in the country, such as Midi-Pyrenees and Languedoc-Roussillon, pointing out local attractions and reminding visitors that there is much more to France beyond Paris. In hopes of educating the general public of their tourism options in France, the agency is planning to set up a pop-up store in New York City for one month in the fall of 2012.

Since the new classification system has allowed French hotels to go up to five stars, quite a few properties have been upgraded. Looking to keep pace with other world-class hotels, notable properties like the Ritz and Hotel de Crillon are undergoing renovations.

Marseille, which will be Europe’s capital of culture in 2013, is also working to earn its popular new status (among other things, a large new museum—the Museum of Civilizations—is in the works). Several high-end hotels have opened in the city within the past few years, and a new InterContinental is scheduled for 2013 in the Old Port area. Not so long ago, Tuncer noted, there were no luxury hotels in Marseilles. Today, there are many, and the city's renaissance is an ongoing project.

Paris is also doing well with visitors, Tuncer said, noting that for one day in June during the annual Paris Air Show, hotels in the city were at 99 percent capacity.

So Atout France has good reasons to be optimistic about the coming year: Tuncer said that visitors from the US had increased by up to 3.5 percent this year over last year, as of September. “2011 looks good,” Tuncer said, adding that the team is already looking forward to 2012.