Rhône-Alpes woos Middle East

AT this year’s ATM, Laurent Cormier, Information and Communication Director for Rhône-Alpes Tourism,  was on hand vigorously markeint the beautiful Rhône-Alpes, the second most populated region in France as well as the second largest after the Midi-Pyrénées.

With a tourist season which runs throughout the year and an advantageous position situated between Paris and the Côte d’Azure, bordering both Switzerland and Italy, the Rhône-Alpes is at the crossroads of Europe offering two international airports, impressive railway links and an extensive network of motorways.

While European markets such as the UK, Belgium, and Germany form the biggest source markets, the Middle East is considered a key focus for the tourism board in order to increase their current one per cent share in the market of visitor nights, he said.

The UAE itself is categorised as a high-spending market along with Switzerland, Spain, Scandinavia, Canada, US and Japan and Rhône-Alpes receives more tourism income from these markets than the bigger European markets, he pointed out. Other emerging countries include Brazil, Russia, India and China and are of particular interest to the tourism board as they represents 42 per cent of the world’s population and 15 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP), he added.

In 2010, 31,000 Chinese tourists and 8,000 Indian tourists visited the Rhône-Alpes and with Dubai a natural gateway between East and West, the Emirates flight from Dubai to Lyon five times a week will no doubt support the board’s efforts significantly.

In 2012, the Rhône-Alpes region registered almost 152.9 million visitor nights (source BET, with 18 per cent of these reckoned to be foreign tourists.  French and foreign tourist consumer spending is estimated at €10 billion according to the Direction du Tourisme.

So what is it about the region that attracts these visitors?

Visitors exploring the Rhône-Alpes will see a continuous stream of changing landscapes from glaciers and famous mountain peaks such as Mont Blanc to the beautiful fields of lavender in the Drôme. There are the vineyards of the Beaujolais, the scrubland of southern Ardèche, the glistening water of the great lakes and myriads of ponds, all adding to the region’s amazing diversity and offering nature lovers the perfect retreat.

In addition, the Rhône-Alpes stands out for the number of protected sites having no fewer than 39 reserves and eight parks, including two national and six natural regional ones, making it one of the best places to observe fauna and flora.

Split between the Alps, the Jura and the Massif Central, over 70 per cent of the Rhône-Alpes’ tourism resources are located in medium and high mountain resorts. They are located on the region’s eastern and western borders and reveal a succession of summits that are sharply pointed on the side of the Alps and the Jura and more gently rounded on the edge of the Massif Central. With its 160 ski resorts and 16 linked ski areas, the region boasts the largest ski area in the world. Every winter it attracts millions of holidaymakers.

While sport tourism is huge for the region, the wellness element also attracts people with its 15 thermal centres. It has also been recorded that approximately 100,000 people stay every year for medical treatments for an average of three weeks.

In the summer the mountains are a paradise for mountaineering, rock climbing, glacier walking or paragliding, ideal for adventure seekers looking to escape from the hot temperatures of the Middle East. Currently, the mountains remain the preferred destination for holidaymakers to the Rhône-Alpes.  Almost 40 per cent of France’s heritage of lakes and reservoir dams can be found in the Rhône-Alpes region with no fewer than three of the five largest lakes in France – Lake Geneva, Lac du Bourget and Lac d’Annecy.

By Karen Osman