France’s ongoing campaign to woo Chinese visitors was taken on by its Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Monday morning, when he went to Charles de Gaulle airport to greet tourists as they arrived on a flight from Beijing.
Fabius, who as foreign minister is also in charge of tourism, wanted to show that France is willing to make an effort to seduce Chinese tourists and show them that, contrary to the widely-held stereotype, Paris can indeed be a welcoming city.
“It’s their first contact with France. It’s really important that everything possible is done to welcome the tourists,” Fabius told the media.
Fabius pointed out that the tourism industry represents seven percent of the country’s job market and his presence at the airport was welcomed by tourism chiefs.
“By him being there, he shows that tourism is essential to France. It’s our number one industry,” Francis Navarro, deputy director general of the regional tourism committee, told Europe1 radio.
“The welcome we give tourists is essential. It is often the thing we are criticised for,” he added.
The only problem was that most of the Chinese getting off the plane in Paris had no idea who the foreign minister was and he was not recognised by one tourist, Europe1 reported.
France has long been making efforts to woo Chinese visitors. In January this year The Local reported how France was to cut red tape in order to make it easier for Chinese nationals to visit France.
The regional tourism committee runs courses for those who work in the tourism industry in Paris, including taxi drivers and museum staff, for how to better welcome visitors.
One course is centred only on the best ways to receive Chinese visitors and it is one of the most popular, the committee’s Navarro said.
The importance of Chinese visitors to the French economy cannot be underestimated. Every year around 1.5 million come to France from China, spending an average of €1,300 each.
Much of that money is spent at in Paris’s famous designer boutiques at the Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. These "Grands Magasins" make every effort to accommodate shoppers from the far-east, hiring dozens of bilingual staff and Galeries Lafayette has even installed a separate till for Chinese customers.