French Affairs: Atout France in Miami, Day One

The annual French Affairs conference kicked off in Miami on Sunday, with French tour operators and specialists gathering to talk about the future of the country’s travel industry, and how they all could help it grow.

Anne-Laure Tuncer, the director of Atout France USA, kicked off the event by noting that since French hotels have been allowed to go up to five stars (as opposed to the previous four), many new hotels are working towards earning that extra star.

Visits from U.S. travelers have increased, she added, with expenditure up to $68.3 million. While the economy is still struggling throughout Europe, there are “encouraging signs” of recovery—especially for agents, she noted. Seventy-six percent of agents responding to a poll reported that they had seen an increase in business this year over last, thanks to their expertise, value-for-money and value-for-time (a five minute call, Tuncer noted, can save hours of research). “An agent is a consumer’s best resource,” she added, and said that French businesses would be increasing their investment in the U.S. market.

Antoine Huet, the VP manager for global alliance sales at Air France, said that his company is working towards a five percent growth from 2009 to 2029. Notably, Air France/KLM is launching a mobile app that will work across most service providers (iPhone, Android, Blackberry) for everything involved with flying, from booking to follow-ups after landing. The airline is one of 20 in the Skyteam alliance, and Huet noted that a full three-quarters of global air traffic is now covered by alliances.  

Marketing and network seem to be dominant themes of the event, and several small panels were held on various aspects of reaching out to new clients and partners. Nathalie Poto, marketing, travel leisure manager, France Tourism Development Agency, said that the Atout France website will have “self-serve style” webinars next year to educate agents, and Stéphane Ballot, e-marketing nanager for the agency, said that other new tools for e-marketing were also on their way for next year. (He also noted that of the 23 million visitors to Atout France’s website, a full 7 million were from the U.S.) 

Gianni Miradoli, COO of Classic Holidays, rather pointedly said that tour operators need help from local tourism authorities in order to better promote destinations, and Poto said that the brand is working with partners to determine where to hold trade shows and other marketing events.

Keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for our continuing coverage from French Affairs.

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