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by Georges Panayotis

A first glimpse at the news offers: social unrest, a prolonged state of emergency, ongoing unemployment, increased refugee numbers, moroseness of entrepreneurs, mounting debt and new terrorist threats… one might get caught up in the pessimism and despondently imagine the future of our economy in general, and of our tourism industry in particular, which is very sensitive to all these elements. But, paradoxically, we are not so bad off, provided we know how to benefit from the other conditions that encourage international travel.

Many factors encourage a return to, and even intensification of, travel: the price of oil has never been so low and is beginning affect airline tickets and the cost of individual automobile travel, the exchange rate against the euro, once an obstacle for those living in the dollar zone, is currently giving people the feeling that traveling to Europe is a bargain; emerging Asian and Chinese clientele in particular are still hungry to discover our monuments and the boutiques along the boulevards. This is clear in the latest figures published by the World Tourism Organization: Europe "outperformed" the rest of the world in terms of international stays. And the trend remains positive for the next few years to come despite ongoing international tension. They have become an integral part of the daily landscape.

But that does not mean everyone reaps the same benefits from these opportunities. It is not enough to open your mouth so that food may freely fall into it. While France has been fortunate in tourism, it does even better if it is well prepared. And this is where the French spirit plays tricks on us. As Belgium powerfully proclaims: "Unity is strength," France revives its old demons of division and every man for himself. There is no other country that has so much conviction as France when it comes to quarreling, tripping over their own two feet, protecting themselves while risking leaving partners out in the cold. The humorist Pierre Daninos said rightfully: "France is the only country where, if you put together ten citizens with ten others, the result is not a sum, but twenty divisions". More of a Mexican army than a commando, our professions' representatives divide themselves to be in the forefront, and multiply press releases and urgent demands to the Government while defending their little corner with no real vision of the global strategy to conquer new markets!

The sector has always been dispersed and unable to express itself with a single voice. The relative failure of professional unions to state a clear and unanimous position leads private industrials to unite as a pressure group, as a parallel task force, in a lobby of interests. Dominant positions put new pressure on domestic prices. How do you explain to a foreign traveler, or even to a domestic traveller, that it is more expensive to cross France by TGV than to travel from one continent to another by Airbus or Boeing? When low-cost multiplies its Plus services, and SNCF applies a fee for booking tickets? Travel is by nature a chain of services whose links must be coherent with one another. The customer-client cannot grow their budget ad infinitum and naturally opt out of other services when they are dealt a blow. Unfortunately, hotels and restaurants are often at the end of the line. There is a veritable transfer of wealth from one sector to the next, while a more commercial attitude from beginning to end would be beneficial to all by inflating the cake instead of looking for the biggest piece.

An important lawyer once said to his obtuse colleagues: "The day you are accused of intelligence don't worry... I'll defend you!" And what if in order to plead the cause of Tourism among higher spheres as well as directly to customers, the players finally showed signs of intelligence! 

About Georges Panayotis

Georges Panayotis is President of MKG Consulting. Born in a family of hoteliers for three generations, Georges Panayotis, 51, 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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