Paris tourism workers to get English lessons

The Local France
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Paris tourism workers to get English lessons
Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP

The Ile-de-France region, which includes the capital Paris, has suffered a major blow to its tourism over the past year. Its president hopes to rectify this with a series of new initiatives from English lessons for bus drivers to mobile police stations.


According to regional president Valérie Pécresse, the Ile-de-France has seen a drop of 1 million visitors and €1 billion between January and August this year.

"We are going through an extremely difficult period," she admitted, citing both terror attacks and bad weather as reasons why tourists are turning away from Paris.

On Sunday, Pécresse unveiled her six-point plan to boost tourism in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche, with measures focused on making Paris and the surrounding area more accessible for non-French speakers, as well as helping tourists feel safer in France.

In total, the region will devote €23 million to tourism in 2017.

One of the proposals, which is sure to be music to Anglophone ears, is the introduction of training sessions to teach basic English to those working in the tourism sector, including bus and taxi drivers as well as staff at museums, hotels and restaurants. 

The region will also improve the currently "inadequate" foreign language signage in tourist areas and on public transport, in a bid to help visitors feel welcome and navigate the city with ease.

English-speaking students will be recruited as intern tour guides, paid €250 for two weeks' work and stationed in airports and other areas frequented by tourists. An initial cohort of 200 will be recruited over the 2016 Christmas period, and by next summer there could be 1,000 such interns.

Another measure to facilitate tourism is the planned creation of a CityPass, which will serve both as a ticket on public transport and for entry into popular tourist attractions. This should be available in time for the September 2018 Ryder Cup golfing tournament.

The region's website will also get an overhaul - and a smartphone app - allowing tourists to better plan their visit, with information such as opening times and prices all in one place. You'll also be able to make hotel and restaurant reservations and buy tickets for attractions through the new site. 

Of course, the terror attacks in 2015 have cast a shadow over the region's tourism, and security is a key part of Pécresse's plan. She announced that together with the Interior Ministry, the region planned to set up mobile police stations in tourist attractions, acting both as a deterrent to would-be criminals and as a place for tourists to lodge any complaints quickly and easily.

She also wants to rename the 'state of emergency', which might sound off-putting to potential travellers. Pécresse hopes to rename the measure 'a high-security state'.

Finally, Pécresse wants to see the region, departments and the city of Paris united to launch a large-scale campaign to promote tourism in the Ile-de-France.



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