30 APR 2015: It was a night out at the Lido in Paris.  What better display of joie de vivre and je ne regrette rien than having a bevy of bare breasted beauties in nothing but plumes, stilettos and skinny thongs strut like peacocks in the heart of the Champs-Elysées.

The starlets wildly smiled to a packed house and no one batted an eye. The exotic burlesque cabaret which has left tongues wagging since inception is now making a massive transformation in a new thrilling show choreographed by Franco Dragone, the maverick director known for his blockbuster shows with Celine Dion and Cirque du Soleil.

To boot, the soiree which was hosted by The Paris Tourist Board and the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau was the opening night for the annual Rendez vous en France, the country’s annual tourism trade event organized by Atout France, the national tourism department agency, which this year celebrated its tenth anniversary.

The Lido’s new Paris Merveilles

And there I was centre stage at the Lido de Paris sipping champagne and nibbling on my starter, foie gras de canard confit with hundreds of international tour operators and foreign press. We had an exclusive sneak-peek of a rehearsal and I’m here to say, “Oh la la.”

The new Lido show Paris Merveilles, which premiered on April 2 is a phantasmagorical look at Paris that weaves emotive songs from lead singer Manon Trinquier who’s a dead ringer for Adele in sound and delivery. Between the sword swallowing red corseted tattoo-riddled performer and the ice skating dynamic duo there was not a dull moment.

Inspired by the magic of Paris, the Franco Dragone-designed show retains the essence of the earlier Lido shows but with the bold approach of new designers.

The opening night of Rendez vous en France set the bar for the two-day trade show, the country’s biggest and undoubtedly boldest one ever. Insiders report the tenth edition had seen over a 10 percent increase in attendance this year with a larger than usual turnout of tourism professionals.

Tourism is big business

Atout France reports 84.7 million international tourist arrivals in 2013 generated 42.2 billion euros in revenue. Overall tourism represents 7.4 percent of the country’s GDP. Needless to say, tourism is big business.

The show run down

The country’s largest travel trade show took place at the exhibition centre known as the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles in the XV arrondissement in Paris. In total, 920 international tour operators, buyers and journalists attended from 67 countries.

Atout France reports over 23,000 business meetings were booked via a dedicated event website for the 2-day trade show.

Overall over 750 tourism representatives in France showcased 158 exhibits from the various regions.

The top three regions represented:

• The south of France with Aquitaine, Auvergne, the Midi-Pyrnees, among others (32 percent)

• The North with Ile de France, Picardie and Nord Pas de Calais. (24 percent)

• The East with Alsace, Lorraine, and Champagne-Ardenne among others. (18 percent)

Transfers

Rendez vous en France offered tour operators a chance to experience the range of products and to learn about value added offerings in pre and post Familiarization trips. This year 420 tour operators participated in one of the proposed 36 FAM trips scheduled in 17 regions across France.

Both Air France and SNCF/Rail Europe, partner carriers of Rendez vous en France ensured the majority of attendees had seamless transfers throughout France.

Show highlights

On the second evening the Centre Georges Pompidou, that bastion of art, morphed into a French extravaganza with the show’s France evening theme. The gallery’s main atrium became the backdrop for a two-level smorgasbord of amuse bouche and wine stations with some of the finest wineries among them from Bordeaux, Alsace and the Rhone Valley showcasing their vinifera.

Meanwhile singers in golden attire sang the popular “I love Paris” medley toasting the crowd with a fluted glass of bubbly. Guests also had an exclusive viewing of the Jeff Koons exhibition, the first major retrospective of the controversial American contemporary artist’s work in Europe which is currently on view until April 27.

On the third night, the Galeries Lafayette Haussmann turned into an international buyers’ market as invited guests arrived to the retail emporium replete in spring fashion to shop and to munch and mingle over more champagne and amuse bouche with Occidental flavours.

The Galeries Lafayette Haussmann recently introduced a concierge service in a private lounge setting available for travel professionals. Located on the second floor the sleekly designed lounge has quiet nooks to relax in this retail therapy environment. Find beverages, snacks, free wi-fi, and cozy chairs to sit back and catch your second wind. The lounge also has a hotel delivery service, a tax refund area, and the English-speaking team can assist in sightseeing tips.

New developments in Paris

I participated in an exclusive press junket to see two large infrastructure development projects: the Philharmonie de Paris and the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles.

Considered the 21st century version of the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles, the Paris Convention Centre complex is currently undergoing a massive multi-million dollar redevelopment project developed in four phases.

Located in the heart of an integrated transportation network in the XV arrondissement in southwest Paris, the project once completed will have a flagship pavilion known as the Triangle Tower for its shape and distinct golden metal mesh facade to reflect Paris’s golden coloured stone buildings and the shimmering luminescence of the City of Light.

A team of four internationally renowned French architects from Dominique Perrault to Jean Nouvel are designing ambitious state-of-the-art facilities in a cluster of seven stand alone buildings providing 216,000 sq.m of exhibition space. Some pavilions are existing buildings that will be totally redesigned. A new 440-room hotel (yet unnamed) is also included. In addition, three meadow laden rooftops will lay claim to Europe’s largest green roof.

Expected completion date is 2025. Watch this video 

La Philharmonie de Paris

In the East of Paris only 14 km by car from the Eiffel Tower is another architectural marvel. Adjacent to the existing Cite de la Musique, a ground changing development completed in 1995 comes a new concert hall and exhibition space known as Philharmonie de Paris

Constructed near one of the busiest roads in Europe, the Périphérique, by the historic Ourcq canal in Paris’ old slaughterhouse district the Parc de la Villette, the Philharmonie de Paris is also located in one of Paris’ largest immigrant communities.

“We want to bring music to the masses,” Philippe Provensal told Travel Industry Today during a tour of the facility.

The structure is designed by French starchitect Jean Nouvel who has made a building akin to clouds using a metal facade with images of 340,000 aluminum birds covering the exterior. The 2,400 seat concert hall is a sight to behold. The balconies inside the main Grande Salle resemble floating clouds suspended around the central stage which is retractable and can morph to suit special configurations. The elevated seating does away with the notion of obstructed seats as the furthest viewer is only 32 metres from the conductor compared to 40 or 50 metres in most symphony halls.

Sound barriers have been created to flush out the urban cacophony outside. When I entered the rehearsal room you could hear a pin drop. “We have already had performances here because there is a demand,” said Philippe about the opening concert this past January.

The Philharmonie de Paris is home to the Orchestra de Paris who performed Faure’s Requim on January 14 to honour the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack.

The price is also extraordinary. “We want to give everyone the benefit to enjoy music in this environment,” Philippe continued and added seat prices are as low as 10 euros.

End note

For clients who have visited Paris a few times, this new daring concert hall is a destination you can easily spend a day visiting. Find temporary exhibitions like the current David Bowie retrospective on view until May 31, attend music workshops, sample restaurants, and the adjacent La Cite de la Musique is home to a vast collection of musical instruments including several violins by Stradivarius and Chopin’s piano. By day bring a picnic basket, spread a blanket over the grass and watch a free outdoor concert in the afternoon and by night immerse in the music of this state-of-the-art concert hall.

“The Philharmonie is a symbol of wider social issues. It aims to reassemble and confront social conventions which can divide and separate,” explained Laurent Bayle, president of Philharmonie de Paris in a press note.

That’s what I love about the French – the demos (the people), Liberté, Égalité and Fraternité. The new Philharmonie de Paris development in my opinion will help serve a greater need to further extend opportunities in a pocket of the city that has encountered huge immigration primarily from North Africa.

Music is international, a bridge that joins sides. I can only hope this fabulous structure will assuage and timbre moods, breaking any boundaries. In the meanwhile it deserves a visit as do so many other rare sites you can only find in France.

PARIS

author

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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