PACA is number one in France for tourism, with a steady 4.5 million visitors from France alone. But with last year’s terror attacks, and frequent transport strikes, the region saw a 3.4% drop in tourism in 2016.
Last week, Renaud Muselier, the president of the regional council of PACA, announced lofty goals for tourism in the region for this year. “We are on the hunt to gain market share in tourism and create jobs,” he said.
Even though the weight of the tourism industry in PACA represents 13% of gross domestic product (GDP), officials are determined to raise those figures. On the tail of 2016’s -3.4%, this year’s goal is to increase the norm by 4%. So how do they intend to raise tourism by more than seven percent?
“Make people dream, make them buy, be more welcoming and keep them coming back,” explained Muselier.
According to him, the projections are good for France and for PACA, which leads the country in top destinations for the French. According to a study by Ipsos, 4.5 million French plan to spend their summer holiday in PACA between June and August, with an average stay of 12.5 days. Reports also show increased interest of European visitors, up nine points from last year.
The Riviera tops France’s destinations
Last week, Muselier gave Marseille the top start of the summer season for 2017. Marseille is one of France’s top ten destinations, along with Cannes, Saint-Tropez, Nice, and Aix. Industry professionals are pleased with this year’s outlook, with 70% (out of 467 tourism professionals) saying the season is already off to a good start, especially in the mountains and countryside areas.
Muselier, who, in addition to being the president of the region is also the head of the regional tourism committee, is very pleased with the forecast for this season. He said: “In terms of international tourism, the world’s leading reservation site, Trip Advisor, has indicated to us a 22% increase in visits to our region and an increase in searches of our destinations by 48% compared to the same period in 2016 .”
Politics makes for uncertainty
However, Muselier acknowledges: “the economic context is tense.” Certainly, the relationship between Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron should have an impact on the stays of the Germans.
According to tourism professionals, Germans were the most represented nationality in the spring, followed closely by the British, Belgians and Italians. But we have yet to see the fallout from Brexit, which will have to wait until the end of the season to evaluate.
The US, Canadian and Chinese markets are targeted to offset the current uncertainties of foreign policy. It remains to measure the impact of the decline in the purchasing power from shorter stays with less expenditure.
Tourism is a competitive market, and even though PACA dominates the top destinations in France, Muselier worries about the competition. He said: “The leading destinations of the moment are increasingly competing with destinations just as attractive, including those in the Mediterranean basin.”
The digital age is adding to the competiveness of tourism. The digital performance of tourism professionals is important to not only better sell themselves on the web, but also because good Wi-Fi coverage is just as important as a good bed, clean beach, and attractive summer activities.