Finding The Balance

Mélanie Paul-Hus, Director, Canada, ATOUT FRANCE

When thinking about the future of travel post COVID-19, Mélanie Paul-Hus, Director of Atout France in Canada, sees the trade playing a pivotal role.

“We believe travel agents and tour operators will be sought after once international travel bounces back,” Paul-Hus tells Travel Courier. “They will be the best source of information to advise travellers on the safest destinations, the type of activities most fitting the clients risk level and expectation. Agents will also be able to present new insurance products benefits and adapt purchase protections to the changing situation.”

Overall, she envisions sustainability being of bigger importance for travellers.

“We expect clients to want to explore more backcountry,” she says. “Before long, sustainable choices will be a priority for destinations and travellers alike, to avoid over developing on natural territories. A new balance between local and international clients is to be expected.”

In order to regain consumer confidence in travelling, the destination is focusing on maintaining the highest possible standards across sanitary, infrastructure, activities and events.

“The situation is entirely new and acting in haste with reopening the destination is not France’s plan,” she says, adding that one of the biggest challenges will be working to grow the connectivity between Canada and France back to its pre-COVID-19 levels.

After the pandemic started, Atout France shifted strategies by promoting virtual experiences and armchair travel inspirations and is concentrating on domestic travel during the initial stages of reopening.

“We look forward to a lift of the non essential travel ban by the Canadian government and until then we are working on a series of Facebook live happening for travel agents and consumers as well,” she adds. “A more thorough action plan is to be deployed in the fall.”

In the meantime, she encourages agents to develop their knowledge of France and European destinations in order to be the reference for when international travel is on again.

“Making agreements with DMCs before the reopening would also in our opinion help agents cater to the needs of individual FIT travellers which we imagine will be in greater numbers until a vaccine is in place,” she says. “The possibly smaller marketplace at the beginning requires every industry stakeholder to act with great precaution and develop more personalized services to match each traveller’s comfort level. Technology also gains presence in the booking process in order to schedule visits, restaurants, etc. Agents will need to provide guidance for higher end clients and develop tools to teach clients how to manage their itinerary.”

In addition, with EU borders having reopened on June 15, Caroline Leboucher, CEO of Atout France, is optimistic about the return of tourism to the fan favourite destination.

“Professionals working within the French tourism industry have worked alongside the French Government to put together health protocols which will guarantee the safety of their employees and visitors, and encourage best practices,” says Leboucher. “Beaches, countryside and mountain areas where people go walking or practise outdoor sports, culture and heritage sites, restaurants and tourist accommodation are all ready to welcome tourists again, who should, we hope, be able to enjoy the French way of life, enjoy a morning café crème and croissant on a terrace, share a French meal with friends, or meet up and enjoy some tasty food and wine together.”