06 MAR 2015:  The theme of Atout France’s annual Destination France expo which occurred recently was “Be our guest.” Atout France held its four city whistle stop travel trade show tour in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver in which over 20 partner exhibitors met with local agents and tour operators.

In Toronto we gathered at the Old Mill Hotel to learn about new products and tourism initiatives.  Earlier Armelle Tardy-Joubert, director of Atout France in Canada delivered news on visitor arrivals and shared updates on significant dates.

“This year all of France will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Liberation (May 8). The events highlighting the Centenary of the Great War will also continue throughout the year,” she said and added, “This year’s theme ‘Be our Guest’ is a way for the French to show their appreciation towards Canadians for their support during these two major conflicts. Welcoming Canadians in France is also welcoming friends, and to share only the best with them.”

The numbers
In 2013 over 1 million Canadian visitors visited France which has resulted in a 15 percent increase from the previous year.
Average nightly bookings: 11 nights
 
Air France
For lift Air France/KLM will increase this summer’s weekly flights from 28 to 33. The airline services Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and, this summer, Vancouver.

In Montreal expect three daily flights (16:45, 19:25 and 22:40) from June 2 until late September aboard the Boeing 777-200.

In Toronto, a Boeing 747 will provide 120 more seats a day between June 8 and August 30.  Business class passengers meanwhile can enjoy the new flatbed seating in the airline’s in-flight Best and Beyond programme.

In Vancouver, Air France/KLM rolls out its new service on March 29. Service is three times weekly to start and watch for a five times weekly service beginning May 4. The aircraft is a 309-seat Boeing 777-200 with a configuration of 35 seats in business class, 24 seats in premium economy and 250 seats in economy.

A special Air France in Vancouver Chic Alors contest is open for travel agents until March 29. For contest entry details click here. Prizes include a pair of tickets in business class, one in premium economy and one in economy departing from Vancouver.

Air France and agents
Alongside Air France and its partners service is really important conveyed Femke Kroese, AF/KLM’s commercial director in Canada. “That’s why there is a dedicated team for commercial, sales and after sales reports and a dedicated phone number and website for agents.

Being reachable is very important to the company.

Air France has a vast network and connects to 38 cities in France. “You will always have a stopover in Paris,” explains Kroese on connecting flight patterns, giving customers the option to stopover in Paris on their way to the final destination.

France and events
Agents can expect a long list of reasons to visit France this year. Atout France reports 4,000 events each year and over 1,400 music festivals how could it not be easy to visit.

Not to miss
Here’s a teaser on some of the not to be missed destinations:

Mont Saint-Michel a.k.a. The French call la merveille – the marvel.
The historic island abbey in Normandy is transforming and will truly be an island in a rare tidal phenomenon that takes place for a short 21-day window this year due to the tides.  The best viewing date is March 21 says Marie-Andree Boucher, press and publications manager with Atout France. You will have to wait until 2073 for the next tide to occur at this UNESCO World Heritage Site so you better get clients there soon.

Caverne Chauvet du Pont D’arc
This 36,000 year old rock art landmark known as the Chauvet Cave located in the Rhone Alpes region was previously off limits to tourists. But now in a fabulous masterful clone visitors will be able to enter this new park and explore the cave. A full sensory overload, expect even the smells to be recreated. The National Geographic calls the repro the world’s most ambitious recreation of prehistoric cave art.  Opening date: April 25.

The millennial anniversary of the Strasbourg Cathedral
France’s second most visited cathedral located in Alsace is a huge crowd pleaser (the other is the Notre Dame in Paris). Marie-Andree notes approximately 4 million visitors walk through the Gothic gem.

Musee des Confluences
Lyon, the gastronomic capital, has the new Musee des Confluences dedicated to sciences and the environment. The extraordinary architectural masterpiece officially opened on Dec. 20, 2014.  

Dom Pérignon
Who doesn’t like a good glass of bubbly? The fabled master and inventor of the famous champagne label is being commemorated since this year marks 300 years in his passing. Expect lots of activities around the great Dom.

Francois (Francis) I: the 500th anniversary of his reign
Crowned in 1515, over five centuries have passed since the death of this Renaissance king. He’s the French royal who sent explorer Jacques Cartier to discover Canada and is the esteemed arts patron who aided an impoverished Leonardo da Vinci, giving him carte blanche to stay at Chateau du Close Luce in Amboise. The chateau was da Vinci’s final home and is where he passed away. The story goes the king loved and respected Leonardo so much, he stayed with the dying inventor/artist and held him in his arms until Leonardo drew his final breath.

Stay tuned as the entire Loire Valley will honour the 500th anniversary of the crowning of Francois I.

Centenary of the Great War (2014-2018)
Special events around the Western Front are planned in memory of the 100th anniversary of the First World War. Regions include Picardy (Somme), Ile de France, Champagne-Ardenne (Verdun) and the Nord Pas de Calais (Vimy).

Juno Beach Centre
Opened in 2003 the Juno Beach Centre is a Canadian institution built on foreign soil that commemorates the Battle of Normandy in which 5,500 Canadian soldiers were killed in World War II including the 359 Canadian soldiers who died on D-Day. The centre also pays homage to the 45,000 Canadians who lost their lives during the War. Canadian guides take visitors through the sites. The centre is an essential stop for your clients visiting the Normandy region. www.junobeach.org


For a calendar of events see
http://ca.rendezvousenfrance.com/en/events/main-events-2015

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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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