According to a recent survey by Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau, in 2006, the total number of visitors to inner Paris is estimated at 27 million.
Tourist arrivals from the Middle East have increased from 154,000 in 1991 to 261,000 in 2005, with an all time high of 333,000 in 2000. 70 per cent of all arrivals have been for leisure with the remaining for business.
The hotel industry alone saw a turnover of 3.62 billion euros of which 2.02 billion euros were attributed to business tourism.
“Increase in revenue is top priority. We know that the Arabs are big spenders and enjoy long holidays especially during the summers. Currently the average nights stay is anywhere between two to four weeks, however once again the majority visit only Paris or the Riviera. We are encouraging road shows whereby other destinations across France can come and promote their products directly with the agents,” Pascal J Lepêtre, the director of Maison de la France in Dubai, told TTN.
While the Middle East market is yet to figure in the city’s prominent inbound tourism potential markets, the forecasts for 2020 is 5.3 million Middle East tourists to Europe and while currently, France is the second preferred destination in Europe after great Britain, the city expects to see a large increase in numbers from the Middle East.
However, said Lepêtre, there is a need to educate the market about other parts of the country. “We need to change the perception of Arab travellers that France is only about Paris and the French Riviera. There is so much more that France has to offer with places like the Rhone Alps and Normandy,” he told TTN.
According to a spokesperson at the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau, “Shopping is obviously one of the most important motivation to get to Paris but we now offer a wide range of tours and activities like ‘Affordable Art” with several museums free to visitors, Art galleries that offer bargain prices etc which might also be attractive.
Currently, with an average daily expenditure of about ?276 ($394) for the Japanese and ?247.9 for the Chinese, tourists from the Far East feature at the top of the list of nationalities that spend the most in Paris, particularly in the shopping sector. Tourists from the UK and the US remain strong contributors to daily expenditure.
By Shalu Chandran