Rhône-Alps targets Middle East market

French tourism promotion agency, Maison de la France, has taken the first step to heavily promote destinations other than Paris to the GCC market.

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By  Gemma Greenwood Published  December 12, 2006

French tourism promotion agency, Maison de la France, has taken the first step to heavily promote destinations other than Paris to the GCC market. The agency recently led a delegation of representatives from the tourism industry in the Rhône-Alps region in South East France, who visited travel agents and tour operators in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and staged educational workshops. The road show, which highlighted the Rhône-Alps’ world-famous ski resorts, coincided with the official opening of the first Maison de la France Middle East office, based in Dubai, which is headed up by Pascal Lepêtre, who is responsible for promoting France in 11 countries across the region. Most Middle East travellers tend to visit Paris or the South of France, but Marc Bechet, director of the Rhône-Alps Tourist Board, explained that the Rhône-Alps had plenty to offer this market. “We have many mountains, including Mont Blanc, and 60 ski resorts; Lyon, the second largest city in France after Paris; rivers, the biggest lake in France, and we are home to [the mineral water] Evian,” he told delegates. Denis Zanon, the director of the Courchevel Tourism Board, said the up-market mountain resort, which is located in Trois Vallées (the Three Valleys), was already popular with the Arabic family market. “We have big luxury chalets to cater to their needs, as well as spas and great shopping with big names including Dior, Hermes and Louis Vuitton,” he said. “We are one of the top three most prestigious mountain resorts in the world, have the biggest concentration of luxury accommodation in the Alps and there are plenty of activities year-round.” These include ice-skating, bowling, indoor canyoning, spas, shopping, and restaurants with Michelin-star chefs. Courchevel also boasts a small airport that is able to handle small commercial aircraft, private jets and helicopters. Another mountain resort promoted during the road show was Megève, a historical Alpine village featuring luxury chalets, gastronomy, authentic architecture, golf courses, and several spas and shops. “We are full during the ski season, but we are looking to attract more Middle East visitors during the summer months when the mountains are green and the temperatures are around 25 degrees [centigrade],” said Mathilde Tissot, promotion and sales manager for Megève tourism.Megève is just a one-hour drive from Geneva and two-hours from Lyon, a “romantic city” that offers an ideal two-day stopover for couples touring France, according to François Gaillard, director general, Lyon Tourisme & Congrès. “Visitors can enjoy the culture and history of Lyon before heading off to a luxury mountain resort such as Courchevel,” he said. Lyon’s key selling points are “gastronomy, shopping, history and World heritage”, he added.

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