Destination France roadshow encourages travel beyond Paris

Last night a delegation of 23 French and local exhibitors were in Toronto to showcase all things France — as well as overseas regions like Martinique — for the annual Destination France roadshow.

“The aim is to make sure that our exhibitors, our French partners and suppliers, are able to get a great relationship here with the industry, with the advisors,” Mélanie Paul-Hus, director of Atout France’s Canadian office, told PressToday. “We want to keep this human connection alive.”

Although the 80 travel advisors in attendance had the chance to connect with all partners during a two hour trade show at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, a special focus was on the Occitanie region as six partners highlighted what sets the destination in southern France apart during a series of presentations to kick-off the evening.

Spreading tourism beyond Paris

“We know Paris is already having all of the market share so we want to make sure we really position the rest of France as being hot spots that we need to explore and we believe in those destinations,” she said. “We want to create that balance, make sure that all of France gets benefits from tourism.”

Featuring the theme Creativity & Audacity: French tourism reinvents itself, Paul-Hus said one of the goals of the event was to widen the view people have of France.

“We’re always showing a new side of France because that’s what France is — always renewed,” she said, adding that France has a goal of becoming the most sustainable destination in the world by 2030. “We also want the industry to be bold with us and start changing and having innovations in their product so that we can all become more sustainable and more in-sync with what we want France to become.”

The show now heads to Calgary and Vancouver, following a previous stop in Montreal.

Product of the Year award returns

Notably, this year Atout France brought back its Product of the Year award, recognizing the innovative aspect of a tour or holiday offered in France or in its overseas destinations.

“We wanted to bring it back last year but we figured people didn’t have a lot of time to really create new products or sell because 2022 was kind of a mixed year,” Paul-Hus said. “So, it’s back and we wanted to evolve it to match the award with our theme — trying to get some sustainability in the product.”

The winner of this year’s Product of the Year award was Patricia Fargeon, president of Planet France, for the Live like a real French suggested itinerary that encompasses a sustainable and slow travel stay in Côte d’Azur featuring e-bikes and a train journey to visit more off-the-beaten path places like Villefranche sur Mer or Menton.

Fargeon received return flights to France courtesy of Air Canada.

Focus on sustainability 

“It’s another way to turn the attention of operators and agents to France’s [sustainability] objectives,” Paul-Hus shared. “We want people to understand we will favour and promote the suppliers that sell those products that are maybe not 100 per cent [sustainable] but are able to add just one or two days without a car for example.”

Notably, this year she said agents even entered the competition.

“Our awards are typically for operators or wholesalers — but if agencies want to compete, we’re fine with that as well,” she said. “Anyone wanting to sell France and having ideas is most welcome.”

The top finalists in the running this year were Martinique and Guadeloupe — Senior Discovery Tours; Pilgrimage to France, Spain and Portugal — Connaissance Travel and The Mystery of Mary Magdalene —The Divine Destination Collection.

Among the travel agents who voted on the award, Shereen Jeraratham from Globus Family of Brands was randomly selected to receive a $250 gift card.

During the evening, several prizes were also given away to attendees.

Sylvie Perron, Product & Insurance Manager for Senior Discovery Tours, received a CroisiEurope voucher for a 7 day/6-night Bordeaux river cruise for two and Ismael Tan Centre Holidays won a 7-day/6-night stay in Occitanie to overnight in 4 star hotels, including sightseeing and train transfers.

Next year Paul-Hus said the annual roadshow will feature a different format with pre-scheduled appointments, something that was tested out during the Montreal portion of the show.