Atout France, the government agency looking at tourism promotion all across the world sees the long term potential of ASEAN inbound into the country. “We of course see this year a slowdown due to recent terrorist acts and its related safety issues. However, ASEAN has been far more resilient than other Asian or overseas markets. With over 600,000 arrivals per year to France, ASEAN is already Asia second largest inbound market for our country and we aim to welcome 700,000 ASEAN travellers by next year”, tells Morad Ayebi, Regional Director ASEAN of Atout France.
France four largest markets from ASEAN are Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. The four generate between 110,000 and 150,000 tourists on an annual basis. “This year so far, worst performing markets are Singapore and Malaysia. Singapore is down by 15% due to safety concerns while Malaysia outbound suffers from its weakening local currency, which declined in value by 25%. The total number from Malaysian travellers is down by 10% since the start of the year. However, we are rather satisfied by the good performances from both Indonesia and Thailand. While Thailand is growing by 5% since the beginning of the year, we saw Indonesian arrivals jumping by 15% since January”, adds Mr. Ayebi. According to him, Indonesia is likely to become France’s largest ASEAN inbound market due to the emergence of a strong middle class.
France is facing challenges to attract tourists for now due to a problem of image. But Morad Ayebi remains optimistic. ” We first refocus our efforts by showing France in its diversity, highlighting new destinations. This is the purpose of our workshop around ASEAN which took us to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. We called our workshop “Douce France” (Sweet France) to highlight French art of living. We invited Disneyland, Luberon in the South, Pont du Gard -France’s most amazing bridge with over 2,000 years of history), Provence as well as Rail Europe, Air France, ClubMed and retailers to come up to meet travel agencies and media”, tells Morad Ayebi.
New destinations will be a focus next year in ASEAN. “We strongly believe in Rhones Alpes region appeal to Asians. Many people go to Switzerland for ski holidays. I believe that French Alps would be as appealing than our Swiss neighbours including the possibility to discover Lyon with its cultural and gastronomical heritage”, adds Mr. Ayebi. I believe they are more destinations to be promoted, depending of the maturity of our markets. Bourgogne would be good especially in regard to wine tourism as well as Eastern France with its rich cultural heritage but also its very famous gastronomy, from Champagne cellars in Reims or Troyes to Alsatian Sauerkraut and pastries.
While the European Union continues to work on simplifying visa procedures, Mr. Ayebi still regrets the lack of non stop flights out of ASEAN. “Only four cities are currently served, Bangkok, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Singapore. We feel that Kuala Lumpur or Jakarta should also be served due to their enormous potential”. They are however possibilities that the future long-haul hybrid subsidiary of Air France (planned for 2018) might feel the gap…