Paris City chiefs have big ambitions.
Not happy with their city being the “most visited city in the world”, the City Hall has come up with a groundbreaking plan to make sure Paris never loses that title.
A six-year plan aimed at attracting more tourists to Paris and giving them a better welcome was unveiled on Wednesday.
In 2015 some 47 million visitors poured into Paris and its surrounding Ile-de-France region, but this year numbers have dropped by around 11 percent due to terror attacks, strikes and violent protests.
But if all goes to plan visitor numbers will increase by two percent each year for the next six years.
'There is no magic wand for tourism, it must on the contrary a clear battle plan, methodical and operational,” said City Hall’s Tourism chief Jean-François Martins.
So how does Paris plan to do it? Through 59 “concrete steps”. Here are some of the more interesting ideas unveiled on Wednesday, although some clearly need to be fleshed out a little.
Massive renovation of base of Eiffel Tower
The foot of the Eiffel Tower is, let’s face it, chaotic at the best of times, especially with the new security measures. But the Iron Lady is to get a brand new welcome area that should see smaller queues for the lifts.
Improve the City’s lighting
The City of Light needs to maintain the right to its name so the City Hall will embark on a plant to revamp the lighting at the 330 sites that are lit up across the city at night.
And really make the city “Gay Paris”
And in the same way authorities really want to justify the city's other informal title “Gay Paris” by improving the welcome it offers LGBT tourists. The city wants to organize an an annual event that promotes LGBT culture.
200 young guides for visitor attractions
As part of their desire to improve the welcome tourists get in Paris, some 200 young people will be employed each year as part of the civic service to help tourists at various sites.
More languages and translations offered
The languages on offer in places where tourists frequent should be more varied in future. The French know they are lagging behind in this area and plan to make their city more accessible. Paris wants to makes sure museums and art galleries have various language options, cinemas and theatres show French films and plays with subtitles and cultural websites for big events like the “Nuit Blanche” all night party are translated in English.
Sort out the Champs-Elysées
Or in other words the mayor wants to reduce the amount of cars on the famous avenue and get cyclists pedaling on there instead.
Urban walks and swimming in the Seine
As part of the move to open up other urban areas of the city that are less frequented, City Hall is to look at creating a series of urban walks. And another of Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s obsessions is swimming in the Seine. She wants this to happen in order to make the river a focal point of tourism.
Improve lighting and access to the Arc de Triomphe
Some 1.5 million visitors take In the Arc de Triomphe each year so City Hall wants to boost numbers by improving lighting and reorganising the underground access.
Water sports in the canal area
The Bassin de la Villette, which links the Canal St Martin and the Canal de l'Ourq in the north east of the city, will also have an area dedicated to swimming and the canals themselves will see more water sports like canoeing and rowing as well as walks.
Show off Paris’s culture of gastronomy
The creation of a new “Cité de la Gastronomie” in Rungis, the giant market to the south of the city is part of a plan to show off Paris's gastronomical delights.
Discover Paris by night
Every visitor knows what to do in Paris during the day, but what about when the sun goes down. City Hall wants to make more of what happens at night in the City of Light, whether it be theatres on “the Broadway of Paris” – the Grands Boulevards or the 100 concerts that take place each night or the 4,000 bar terraces. Creating a “night pass” for attractions after dark is one idea.
Uncover the Paris of Parisians
There’s far more to Paris than the Latin quarter and the Champs-Elysées and City Hall wants to promote areas less visited such as Montparnasse, the canal district, Chinatown, Bastille, Belleville-Menilmontant and Grands Boulevards – essentially the areas where Parisians spend their lives.
Fewer tickets and less queuing
City chiefs want to simplify people’s visits to Paris and one way of doing it is taking away the need to purchase tickets at specific points, whether for sites or transport – which can often be painful if you don’t speak French. A working group is to be created to come up with ways whereby the latest technology. i.e. smartphones, can be used to replace old fashioned paper tickets.
More security at tourist sites
City Hall wants to boost security at sites especially for visitors from the Far East who have been regularly targeted by thieves. Authorities have also vowed to crack down on scams and those who sell items to tourists on the black market.
12,000 more hotel beds
Paris needs more beds and it needs more modern hotels, say city chiefs. By 2022 this should be rectified.
Promote “memory tourism”
In other words the city plans to make the most of the cemeteries especially the famous Pere Lachaise.
A “destination for everyone”
City chiefs want to make Paris more accessible to disabled visitors and will promote the brand “Destination for Everyone” to encourage sites to take steps.
Wifi for Everyone
City Hall wants to make sure tourists can have access to wifi wherever they go in the city.
Online and telephone assistance for tourists
Those who run into difficulties should find it easier to access immediate help in the future either on line or over the phone.