France Says Bienvenue, Canadians – A Million Times!

Mélanie Pau-Hus with (left) French Consul Bertrand Pous and (right) Alexandre Willmann of Eastern France Tourism

Canadian visitors set to top a million to France; areas outside of Paris ripe for discovery says Atout France

There is so much to discover in France, as some 80 travel advisors learned 20FEB at the annual Destination Road Show which took place at Toronto’s Sheraton Centre. As the advisors learned at the 2 hour trade show as well as enlightening seminar about the Occitanie region in southern France, there is so much to see and do.

Some 80 travel advisors attended the event, one of 4 this week hosted by Atout France and its partners

Appropriate for a country investing in sustainability, some 40% of Occitanie is considered protected and comprises attractions ranging from Roman ruins to the High Pyrenees near the Spanish border. That area includes thousands of kilometers of hiking trails and 40 ski resorts – but you don’t need to be a fitness fanatic to visit, we were assured. It is also home to the legendary spiritual sanctuary of Lourdes, which every night from April to October, hosts a procession of visitors and locals holding candles – “A very emotional experience, even if you are not Catholic.”

We were also treated to views of Carcassone, the delightful walled Medieval city and one of Occitanie’s – and France’s – greatest attractions. Clients who are into gastronomy deserve a visit to Uzès (“oo-zez”), the City of Truffles.

ACV’s Area Sales Manager Bruce Parkinson with Travel Content Creator Tara McAndrew

And then there is the Pink City: Toulouse, the region’s capital and 4th largest city in France, with attractions as diverse as its ancient streets and the Airbus Factory, where tours are available, and the Airbus Museum, where clients can explore the interior of a Concorde.

Toulouse (TLS) is definitely the gateway to Occitanie, with excellent year-round service from YUL. AC offers as many as 10 flights a week (5 in winter) and TS has 3 weekly flights YUL-TLS May to October. When you fly your clients from YUL, they can miss the bustle of flying into Paris’s CDG, and as we know, today’s traveller is very much into avoiding stress!

Club Med’s Tyler Mattioli

Exhibitors included well-known brands and destinations including Rail Europe and Club Med, whose BDM Ontario and Atlantic Tyler Mattioli told Open Jaw that the Club has 3 sun resorts and 20 ski resorts in France, including his personal favourite at La Rosière, where “the front of the mountain is in France and the back is in Italy. Our guided ski tours are included – you can ski into Italy, no passport required!”

Nicole Pradines, wonderfully-described as the “Marketing and Attractiveness Manager” for Tourisme Occitanie

The Atout France show was just one of 4 planned this week, with YVR, YYC and YUL also included. It’s clear that smart advisors are honing their knowledge of the country: as Mélanie Paul-Hus, director of Atout France’s Canadian office told Open Jaw: “The numbers for 2023 aren’t yet finalized but we believe we reached the 1 million mark – and 2024 is looking very good, especially thanks to new year-round air capacity.”

Find out more about tourism in France here.

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