By Georges Panayotis
France's tourism performances are mostly positive, and so much the better! After many lean months, tourism and hotel professionals are back to smiling. Driven by ever-increasing international demand, tourist arrivals are on the rise and remain strong. Let's ride the wave and acquire market shares. Because while France has a long tradition of hospitality with an attractive cultural and geographical heritage, many destinations have followed in the same path. European performances are also positive and France is not alone in boasting results that are more than encouraging.
Our sector has become prosperous again, but let's not make the mistake of resting on our laurels or worse, scuttling the ship. The government wants to invest and work for the sector, and we are delighted, but it is important that everyone remains in their role. Beware of the dangerous temptation to be judge and jury, it would be contrary to the rules of private property, some would add that public private companies function only very rarely. It is enough to look at Air France to see that the government does nothing for it. It cannot be both actor and regulator of the system.
Operational work must be the responsibility of professionals, while the government and its agencies must focus solely on promoting the destination and offering solutions that really match today's codes and channels of communication, which is far from being the case when we see the sums currently being spent. These anemic budgets position us as a second-class destination. On the other hand, we beat records in boasting, Theodule committees, studies with political orientation and even the counting of tourists arrivals and departures,… here too we are world champions.
Others apply their own methodical and diligent means to tarnish the appeal of French tourist destinations. Yield management makes it possible to maximise the turnover of a tourist product, and thus act. But don't saw off the branch you're sitting on, because while it makes sense to maximise profits, you fall into excess when certain airlines offer flight fares ranging from simple to tenfold depending on the booking date. The State, sometimes a partner of these companies – without forgetting our national treasure, SNCF, which is not to be outdone in this type of pricing policy – closes its eyes. Nor are the distributors going to complain since they receive a percentage of the rates applied. But, once again, if the consumer finds himself hostage to exorbitant fares, there is only one step that more and more travelers are taking from there to less greedy destinations. This biased system is an impediment to good economy, because tourists are not cash cows and can find themselves short of money for accommodations, food and entertainment, as transportation is overpriced.
Another example of the schizophrenia that has taken hold of the government is the prohibitive pricing of concessions at French monuments and cultural sites, terraces, beaches…, the catering concession at the Eiffel Tower, for example, has reached such a high level that it is unlikely that the quality/price ratio will be satisfactory to the end customer. It is just one more fine reason for potential visitors to turn their backs on the destination and go elsewhere where they don't feel like thy're being cheated. How can a government that seeks to initiate actions aimed at restoring France's image and improving tourist reception, simultaneously allow outdated practices ruin the work done and the money invested? It should come as no surprise that the hotel and tourism sectors are unable to attract sufficient qualified labour when you imagine the potential salaries; it discourages staff from coming to our sector. With high unemployment, tourism is a sector that lacks manpower, find the error…
The State must trust the professionals but also must leave them the means to work serenely and efficiently. If there is no lack of good will, we must consider the problem from all angles. The competition is such that we cannot afford to make more mistakes without compromising the good health of a sector that is a real driving force for our country.