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by Georges Panayotis

The debates that are stirring up the French population and are being fed by the beginning of the presidential campaign have cast a pall over the image of a welcoming country. Any demonstration of cultural diversity seems to purposefully goad the perfect model of a secular republic.

It is normal for the multiplication of attacks against France’s population and its symbols of liberty to cause a security reflex. However, it is important to distinguish between the need to guarantee security for all –citizens and visitors alike, regardless of their origins or culture– and the temptation to reject the other and fall back on limited values.

France, the symbolic image of the development of Human Rights, an illustration of humanist values that have come down from the Age of Enlightenment and its greatest philosophers, has nothing to do with the accusations that try to overthrow the country’s very principles of welcome and individual freedoms. The negative commentaries regarding France’s supposedly segregated community that circulate freely in Asia and on the American continent suggest that there is a fair amount of incomprehension as well as rivalry. Meanwhile, now is the time for solidarity among all peoples in the stand against fanatic abuse of power, without stigmatizing one another. France has shown far more comprehension toward America’s decisions on its own territory and actions it has taken abroad following 9-11.

It must also be observed that today’s political discourses do nothing to offer any peace of mind. Despite its official will, France continues to have trouble finding room for peoples reflecting its colonial past. From frustrations to misunderstandings, the division grows deeper and a confrontational state of mind is being established against a backdrop of poorly assimilated religions. France is good at enjoying more than 400 varieties of cheeses, dozens of languages and regional cultures, but the diversity of religious practices is another matter. 

If it is difficult to live together, among French citizens with a variety of origins, how can the country  properly and sincerely express welcome to foreign visitors from a variety of cultures, who have elected France as a land for discovery? Will France become a timorous land? Will wariness become widespread with regard to all those who wear their traditional dress that is out of line with occidental standards?

Such questions are delicate to raise since the need for security and the concern for national identity have become a major subject in the upcoming presidential campaign. And the tourism industry has something to add to the debate: being open to the world and its diversity by nature, it is obliged to preach tolerance and intelligence. It is part of France’s positioning on planet Tourism and, even more concretely, and France’s ability to welcome clients of all nationalities, all religions, all cultures honorably. It will, unfortunately, be necessary to continue live in fear that new atrocities may happen. But this should not prevent us from living together, happily and in tolerance.

About Georges Panayotis

Georges Panayotis is President of MKG Consulting. Born in a family of hoteliers for three generations, Georges Panayotis, left Greece at the age of 18 to pursue his studies in Political Sciences and to obtain his Master in Management at the French University of Paris Dauphine. He then joined the Novotel chain, which will become the Accor Group, to manage the International Marketing Division. After developing specific marketing tools for the hotel industry, he left the group in 1986 to start his own company, MKG Conseil, now MKG Group. In twenty years, the group has become the European leader in studies and consulting for the Hospitality industry. The company employs over 70 people in four departments: marketing studies, database, quality control and trade press, with two publications HTR Magazine and Hotel Restaurant Weekly. The company helped the development of over 2,000 hotels in France and in Europe, with offices in Paris, Cyprus and London. Georges Panyotis is the founder of the Worldwide Hospitality Awards and the Hotel Makers Forum, and the author of several publications on Marketing and Operations in the hotel business, He is a regular consultant for several television channels, among which Bloomberg Television, and radio networks.

Contact: Georges Panayotis

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