Wary of the international reputation of French people working in the tourist industry being slightly less than welcoming to tourists, the French government has come up with a few ways it plans to change all that.
It might be the most visited country in the world but France wants more tourists and has published a list of measures and suggestions to help it hit the target of pulling in 100 million visitors.
French tourism chiefs understand that the most valuable tourist is a satisfied one.
They don't want anyone to go away unhappy so are going to plough millions into making sure everyone feels welcome.
Tell that to the pickpockets, the striking train drivers and the supposedly moody Parisian waiters, or the hotel staff who don't speak English, as we hear some of you say.
(Not everyone thinks tourism is so important, as seen in this graffiti attack on th SAcre Coeur last year.)
Well the French government has plans to deal with all of that… apart from the strikes.
Here's 13 ways France plans to be more welcoming to visitors.
1. Communication campaign to boost image of service industry
The report had some harsh words for the French people.
“The French do not always weigh up what international tourists represent: Jobs – two million people employed in tourism” as well as proof that visitors love our country.
Part of the problem is that the government says the French people have a low estimation of the service industry and want to impliment a nationwide campaign to change their way of thinking.
To be successful the campaign will be “humorous” and “innovative” but will “not hand out lessons to the French people, who would not have much taste for this exercise.”
Authorities want to use the France Bleu radio network, which has stations in all regions, to broadcast a programme showing how people can play a positive role in the welcome of tourists and to build a different image of working in the tourism industry.
2. Welcome messages in French and English
Travellers arriving by plane and train in France should be shown a brief “Welcome to France/Bienvenue en France” video, showing some images of the country.
3. Border police to say “thank you”
French authorities want their border police force, in other words those guys behind the screens who check your passports without looking at you, to follow a strict rule of saying “Hello” then “thank you” then “goodbye” every time they check your passport. This is inspired by the United States apparently, although we are unlikely to get to point where police tell us to “Have a nice daaay”.
4. Make it easier to get on the Metro with luggage
Paris will make it a priority to improve those Metro stations most frequented by tourists. Entrance to those stations will be changed so that tourists laden with suitcases can easily get through the gates, instead of getting stuck halfway with a metal bar between your thighs and incurring the wrath of Parisians.
5. More info on trains to Paris from CDG airport
Authorities want agents at the RER station at Charles de Gaulle to tell travellers how to get on a direct trains to Paris and let them know exactly what time it arrives rather than just leaves.
(Marseille Cathedral reflected in the windows of the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations. Photo: AFP)
6. Announcements in English on TGV trains
“This measure will remind our citizens that our trains carry many foreigners,” read the report.
7. Sort out the taxis
As well as fixed taxi fares from airports to Paris and a dedicated motorway lane to make the journey quicker, authorities want to improve taxi queues at airports so that several passengers going to the same place can share a car. Leaflets with important info should also be handed out to those taking a cab.
8. Improve welcome at hotels and restaurants
This is described as the “key” to the whole project. Hotels and restaurants must act like official “hosts of the France” when they welcome visitors. They plan to do this by highlighting best practices in the media and awarding a “Quality Tourism” label to the most welcoming establishments.
The government recognises that a key aspect of improving the welcome from tourism professionals is to train them better. So they will set up a online course (a MOOC as they are known) named “Objective hospitality France” under the leadership of tourist body Atout France.
It would be available for the whole “tourist community”.
9. More languages in hotels
Authorities want to encourage anyone in the hotel industry to learn more foreign languages by giving bonus points in a classification system for those establishments whose staff are trained to speak other languages.
They want all staff working in four-star hotels to speak two languages and employees in five-star hotels should speak three.
10. Information kiosks at airports
To improve the “human” welcome at airports information kiosks will be installed that will give visitors everything they need to know in 15 different languages. At smaller regional airports around the country info will be available in five languages.
11. Emergency number for tourists
As part of the French government's efforts to cut down on the crime rates against tourists, which have somewhat sullied the country's reputation abroad, particularly in China, the government is to investigate whether an emergency phone number can be set up just for tourists.
Interpreters who speak several languages will be made available who can advise tourists where to seek help.
The government is also looking into setting up a special prosecutor in Paris to deal with crimes against tourists.
12. “Welcome Chinese”
To put Chinese visitors at ease the government plans to roll out a “Welcome Chinese” certification that could be awarded to certain Chinese friendly companies.
13. “Thank you and see you again”
The French government wants to leave visitors with a good impression of France and hope they come back.
To that extent they want stickers placed at all exit points in the country, like airports and train stations that say “Thank you, see you soon” (Merci, à bientôt). Train and plane announcements will also include something similar.
What else would you suggest France do to make the country more welcoming?