If France wants to maintain its status as the world's most-traveled destination, it's going to need an attitude adjustment.
In other words: be nicer to tourists.
That was the message promoted by the French Ministry of Affairs at a national conference yesterday, where Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced a multi-tiered campaign to attract 100 million visitors per year to the country by 2020.
"The logic is simple," said Fabius during his presentation. "An unhappy tourist is a tourist that never comes back."
Citing a general stereotype that the French are unwelcoming toward foreigners, Fabius said the new promotional tourism campaign will encourage business owners and those in the service industry to reconsider their approach when dealing with travelers.
"This must become a national priority," noted Fabius. "Tourism is a national treasure. When you ask people around the world 'where they want to go?' 'France' is always the first answer."
But that status could wane if the country does not take action, he said.
Measures adopted in the new campaign being promoted by the French Ministry of Affairs will include keeping more shops and dining establishments open on Sundays, as well as encouraging border police to say 'hello,' and 'thank you' when reviewing passports. Video communication on flights and signage at popular tourist outposts will also be made available in multiple languages besides French.
The new campaign will also attempt to streamline some existing experiences, such as facilitating the issuance of visas, guaranteeing very-high-speed Internet coverage in the main tourist areas, and adopting a paperless city pass in the Ile-de-France region, according to the French Ministry of Affairs.
Likewise, economic incentives will be given to hotels and other businesses in the travel industry.
As the announcement spread online, French reactions varied, with some tweeting at Laurent Fabius that he should become president to others who felt the campaign was a terrible idea: "ha le ps après le medef ces sont les étrangers venues polluer notre pays. (These foreigners come to pollute our country.)"