06 MAR 2018: The 2018 Destination France road show rolled into downtown Vancouver on, March 1, after stops in Quebec, Montreal and Toronto. The event drew travel agents and media for an evening with tour operators and regional tourism representatives at a press conference, travel workshop and cocktail gala.  

This year's theme was "En fleurs/In Bloom," celebrating the gorgeous greenery for which France is renowned. From the formal gardens of André le Nôtre at Versailles and Chantilly to the impressionist beauty of Monet's gardens at Giverny, France's garden culture typifies the refinement, romance and love of beauty that make the country a standout tourist destination year after year.

The host partners, France's tourism development agency Atout France and Air France, acknowledged that while not necessarily a key selling card for first-time visitors, the green beauty of France is a strong retention attraction for repeat travellers. After the slowdown following the tragic attacks of 2015, tourists are going back to France in healthy numbers, and the focus on green spaces made for an optimistic, upbeat evening. Mélanie Paul-Hus, Atout France's Director for Canada, who positioned France as a "high-quality, ever-improving destination," projected 100 million visitors by 2020.

Green tourism makes good sense. Green spaces in urban areas, such as the Tuileries in Paris or New York's Central Park, have always ranked among a city's must-sees, and current trends have seen ongoing green-space renewal of French urban centres like Nantes, Marseilles and Bordeaux.

France has four labels to help people identify green spaces: EcoJardin, BiodiverCity, Jardin Remarquable and Villes et Villages Fleuris. While EcoJardin and BiodiverCity certify eco-managed public sites and biodiverse urban buildings, most Canadian tourists will be seeking out spaces open to the public that are designated with these "Jardin Remarquable" and "Villes et Villages Fleuris" labels:

A jardin remarquable is a "remarkable garden," a green space with particularly unique landscaping. It is awarded for a five-year period, based on criteria including composition, botanical interest and history.

Launched in the 1960s, this well-known label ranks cities and towns with flowers in the same way hotels use stars. More than 4700 municipalities have been awarded one to four flowers based on landscaping, aesthetics and environmental responsibility.

Marie-Andrée Boucher, Atout France press manager, expanded on the green theme and its importance to French tourism throughout history. She gave an overview of green tourism developments of note and mentioned many other special events around the country of interest to travellers this year. Examples included the 75th anniversary of Juno Beach, the D-Day Festival, and the weeklong festivities around the Route du Rhum, a competition for solo sailors once every four years every four years between Saint Malo in Brittany and the Guadeloupe Islands,

Vincent Crabol of Air France highlighted the convenient scheduling of the five Boeing 777 flights per week between Vancouver and Paris year-round, the appealing in-flight service, the in-country connections (Air France connects more Canadian cities to more French cities than any other airline), the TGV high-speed train station inside Charles de Gaulle Airport, the relaunch of the simplified Flying Blue loyalty program, now reciprocal with the WestJet network, and the Air France phone apps to make travel easier.

Plus - Travel Marketplace

Thursday was an unusually big day for Vancouver travel agents. Earlier on, the city's first-ever Travel MarketPlace was held across town at the Parq Vancouver. More than 250 travel agents attended the first day of the two-day educational and professional programming event with 25 speakers and more than 50 exhibitors. ACTA president Wendy Paradis, in her opening address, pointed out how busy agents are right now.

As a result of new growth opportunities like these, it looks like west coast agents will get busier still.


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