French NTO makes SE Asia comeback with new strategy


ATOUT France, France’s tourism promotion agency, has returned to South-east Asia with a regional head office in Singapore and a bureau in Jakarta to better serve the increasingly important markets in the region.

Since the closure of its South-east Asian offices in 2011, Atout France has seen tourist arrivals from the region climb to over half a million in 2014, making up the third largest group of Asian arrivals after China and Japan.

“We came back to the region because we saw a big increase in arrivals from here and because of its potential,” said Atout France’s regional director – South-east Asia, Morad Tayebi.

Commenting on the strengths of particular markets in the region, he said: “Within the next three years, Indonesia will become a big player in the region. Even though it is now the fourth market in terms of arrivals, we believe that it would be the first within five or six years.”

He further noted that visitors from Singapore, the second largest source market in South-east Asia after Malaysia, are the region’s top spenders.

Matthias Feckl, French minister of state for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of Tourism and French Nationals, told reporters during a visit to Singapore last week: “(When considering) tourism and the economy in general, Singapore is the most important partner of the EU (out of) the whole ASEAN community.”

He added that the new offices would play a role in regional cooperation and the coordination of activities.

To grow overall arrivals to France from 83.8 million in 2014 to the target of 100 million by 2020, 2.5 million euros (US$2.85 million) has been set aside for the deployment of campaigns worldwide and Feckl said there is a focus on promoting a greater variety of secondary destinations in France.

“We are working so that tourism spreads all around the country (rather than just focusing on a few major points). If we succeed, then the 100 million will be achievable,” said Feckl.

He added: “We are trying to focus on market to market promotions…to adapt these promotions to local demand, to have precise packages that respond to what people want in different parts of the world.”

This approach also informs destination promotions in South-east Asia, according to Atout France’s Tayebi.

“(For) emerging markets such as Indonesia and Thailand, we (will talk more about) destinations like Paris and Bordeaux, which are very strong international brands,” he shared.

“But for (mature markets such as) Singapore and Malaysia, we would rather talk about (lesser-known destinations) such as Burgundy, and even Brittany, because we know that Singaporeans are eager to discover new destinations and are also trendmakers.”

Tayebi added that the agency has plans to organise a fam trip to Corsica and the French Riviera for travel agents this September.

Other plans to encourage arrivals from the region include workshops, training seminars, cultural festivals and trade fairs.

One example is Good France, an annual culinary event in March that offers French meals “adapted to local demand and traditions” by 1,700 participating chefs from around the world. This year, in its second edition, the event was held in countries including Indonesia, India and Singapore.

French tourism authorities also hope to continue attracting visitors with improved visa policies.

Benjamin Dubertret, ambassador of France to Singapore, said: “Singaporeans do not require visas for short stays but we do get lots of visa requests from other nationalities (Indonesians, Filipinos and Chinese for example) living in Singapore.

“We have been working to reduce delays (in processing visas) and have since September 2015 (committed to) delivering visas within 48 hours.”

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