As the month of August came to a close, cries of victory could be heard rejoicing over the good results for summer tourism in France. While many economic sectors continue to suffer, arrivals and activity figures of Tourism professionals exploded like fireworks in the night. But the bursts of light hide a less brilliant reality.
Growth in turnover this summer is fragile and misleading. On the one hand it relies on fear that is aroused by instable geopolitical situations across the Mediterranean. There is no glory in being a substitute destination, a kind of second choice destination. On the other hand, long-term growth compared to neighbour countries is all relative when considered from a longer period. France benefits from its givens without being cautious enough about its competitors that year after year nibble away at its shares on each tourism segment. Today it ranks 6th among Tourism’s global contributions to France’s GDP, behind Germany and the United Kingdom (Annual report of the WTTC)
For the fifth consecutive year tourism revenues in Germany are increasing. If we take into consideration direct and indirect benefits of the sector, close to 350 billion dollars, particularly thanks to trade fairs and exhibitions, the contribution to the GDP is higher than in France (250 billion dollars). After a difficult period linked to reunification, the industrial and exporting power is a considerable engine for business and MICE tourism.
On another scale, Great Britain constantly surprises the sector’s observers by its dynamism in tourism. The Olympics in London had a positive structural impact that could truly be felt and the British capital remains one of the leading gateways to Europe for global tourism. Thanks to its royal family, the country benefits from a fantastic ambassadress for tourism.
Even Spain, which seemed lifeless after the crisis of 2009, is bouncing back better than ever thanks to its islands and popular resorts. The length of stays of foreign travelers there is two to three times higher than on France’s coastlines. And the results offer proof. More discreet on the international scene, Italy is in ambush to grapple with a few percents of growth that it will take away from France one day.
The dollar’s increased buying power, the appeal of France’s luxury industry to Chinese travelers, the punctual arrival of sovereign families from the Middle East, good weather all combined to produce good results and leave room to believe it is not urgent to reformer France’s strategy for conquering these source markets. And yet, while it was spoiled for a number of generations, France lived under the illusion that its first place positioning had been won for life. It had and still has all it takes to strengthen its position in Europe and the world, but if it doesn’t undertake any real changes, about the weak points of its tourist offer, the wake-up will be all the more painful when other countries will have renewed their offers, improved their welcome and their appeal.
Most importantly, if there is no close collaboration in Europe to capture a larger share of distant clientele, each country will want to go it alone in hopes of taking the largest piece of the cake, or risk losing completely in terms of global efficiency. Weighted down by years of immobility, France is being overtaken by more agile, ore reactive destinations. Former policies only served to create a soft core without enough muscle to seduce. Not so long ago, France’s hotel industry invented concepts that spread throughout Europe. Today British, Dutch, German, Spanish and Italian entrepreneurs are showing France how to innovate. France’s enlightenment for the tourism industry no longer very reaches very far and is not attracting younger generations.
The lack of renewed supply has combined with high rates and opened the way to the collaborative economy that is upsetting healthy economic models. The reforms that have been announced are slow to produce any effect. In the meanwhile, the time has come for France to put on its thinking cap to guarantee the future of professions in the tourism sector.
Authored by Georges Panayotis, President & CEO – MKG Group
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