Saturday, 13 June 2015

French Tourism

From the Telegraph

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius unveils drive to end "paradox" of France being world's top tourist destination but among the least welcoming

With the attractions of Paris, the Alpine ski resorts, Riviera beaches and excellent cuisine, France has been the most visited country since the 1980s, welcoming 84 million tourists last year.

But the country has also been wrestling for some time with its reputation as one of the rudest places on earth for tourists.Now the French are being urged to be "more welcoming", as France prepares to launch a multimillion-euro tourist investment fund aiming to boost tourist numbers to 100 million by 2020.

There isn't a paradox. Tourism is almost entirely about seeing things, and mostly things provided by the state. The people that are providing things around those locations are mostly rent-seekers. A cafe on the Champs-Elysee or outside Windsor Castle can provide expensive so-so coffee with a frown because you're not going there because it's a great cafe with a reputation, but because you just want a drink and it's the first place. And as a tourist, you won't be a regular.

France is a lovely, welcoming country. I've stayed in friendly little hotels where they gave us a luxury room for the normal price because it was available, restaurants where they offered me a free glass of a local spirit to try. If you're in Cognac, a distillery tour is friendly and professional. The Champagne houses also do a good tour. I've eaten cheaply and had excellent service in Paris because I choose to eat in areas like the Sorbonne, Les Halles or the outer arrondisements, where you're sitting in tables next to Parisians... in places that have to be good because they aren't relying much on location and tourists. And my cafe tip is to turn off the Champs-Elysee and find a backstreet cafe full of locals where you'll pay quite a lot less.

(the exception to the state providing tourism is places like Disneyland, and in those cases, no-one is complaining about the service)


Mark Wadsworth said...

Maybe, but at least the French are rude with style, like the Chinese.

What bugged me most was the Spanish*, their form of rudeness lacks any sense of irony - and even expat Spaniards I've met agree on this.

* On the way home from Spain, we went to the McDonalds in Stratford where it was a bit full. A new serving lady opened a till and beckoned us across with a smile, it struck me that you get more customer service in an average UK McDonalds than in the whole of Spain.

And the Italians, Belgians and Dutch manage to be perfectly friendly, even in tourist traps.

Woodsy42 said...

The french could always start by removing the tourist tax levied on anyone staying overnight in camp sites (and I assume also hotels but don't use them as we have a small camper van).
It may be only a few cents per person but it hardly encourages a warm welcomone from the government to apply a special overnight tax to visitors. Most camping sites - which are unfailingly helpful, friendly, well-run and welcoming - are very apologetic about having to charge it.

Lola said...

I drove the Perephique at 1 a.m towing an expensive race car. Never seen so much mad, bad, dangerous and inconsiderate driving inmy life.

Bayard said...

"What bugged me most was the Spanish*, their form of rudeness lacks any sense of irony"

I suspect that Stigler's points apply in Spain, too: get away from the "touristy" spots and the people are more welcoming. Remember that we Brits, too have a terrible reputation amongst Spaniards on the Costas for rudeness. I can't say that I've found either the French or the Spanish any different from the British when it comes to hospitalities.

The other thing you have to remember is that the Parisians are famously rude to everyone, even French people. My brother used to work with a Frenchman, who had to speak English when he spoke to Parisians, as he had a very strong French regional accent and the Parisians would profess not to be able to understand him if he spoke French.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Anyway, France is not the top tourist destination.

London is.

Woodsy42 said...

Well done Lola! We recently travelled some of it at 8.30am on a weekday in the camper van - it was quite an experience. Fortunately the wife was driving so I was able to close my eyes occasionally.

The Stigler said...

I've rarely encountered rudeness in France. And things like restaurant and shop service are generally better than here (although we've been improving). I can't comment much on Belgium. I've only had a few days there, but it was all fine.

It's really bad psychologically. You've just had a nice time in a city, spent a load of your money, and you're given a €1 tax for each day. But, tourists can create more costs. The sensible thing is to work out how much is collected and slap it on business rates.

French driving is just bad. Full stop. Always cracked me up when people said we need a theory test to improve driving ("like the French?"). I've never been on the Peripherique, but the A86 that goes a bit further round is crazy enough.

And I'd say that Londoners are generally ruder than most people in the UK. It's a thing of being more anonymous in a city. In rural areas, people have to be more sociable to each other because they're going to keep meeting each other.

Mark (again)
Paris may be bigger than London, but we don't get a lot of tourism outside of London (people go to places like Bath, Stonehenge and Stratford, but generally as a trip out of London). Areas like the Vendee, Loire, Dordogne, Brittany and Provence are stuffed with other Europeans.

Mark Wadsworth said...

TS, Belgians are incredibly helpful, and world champions at sign language (them speaking so many different languages and all). Probably the second most amenable people after the Italians.