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Thursday, 12 December, 2019, 13 : 07 PM [IST]

‘The aim is to showcase how to include newer destinations in an itinerary’

Regular product training and information updates are the need of the hour, and a slew of measures are being undertaken for enchancing MICE movement to France, says Sheetal Munshaw, Director, Atout France India, while speaking to TravelBiz Monitor about their e-learning programme.
Q With France establishing its foothold in the Indian market in the past decade, how does Atout France plan to upscale its strategy for the coming five years? (especially from the Tier-II markets)
We are already making a foray in Tier-II markets through one on one sales calling, inviting agents from these markets to our annual roadshows and also inviting them to France for our yearly thematic buyer-seller meets and conventions, and also to our annual B2B showcase that takes place in India. A good example of our presence in these markets is the recently concluded Ambassador's Awards where the winners for the best showcase of France were not only travel companies from Mumbai or Delhi, but also from markets such as Bengaluru and Ahmedabad. We believe that education and awareness about France are the way forward and our ongoing training programme will also be a great tool to reinforce France's positioning in these cities. We will also look at including other tools such as webinars and on ground training to further amplify our presence, and enhance our professional relationships with key players in these markets.

Q Besides leisure, how are you looking at gaining a good traction from the MICE vertical in India?
We have a slew of initiatives that are directed towards the MICE segment. In order to gauge the current needs and requirements of the MICE industry, we have participated in showcases such as MILT, EPEX and the Travel Wedding Show as overseas weddings are also a rapidly evolving and promising sector for France. Atout France organises annually its key MICE buyer-seller meet known as France Meeting Hub which gathers MICE travel professionals from all over the world including India and French specialists in this domain for furthering synergies in this domain.

We have also organised a panel discussion including corporates and key travel agencies who are MICE specialists to have a better understanding of how France can be thought of as the first destination of choice for MICE movements. In addition, part of our annual initiatives also include the creation of a MICE supplement that showcases France's destinations and provide in-depth information on destinations from the MICE perspective. We are confident that this will propel many more agencies to organise their future movements in France.

Q The 48-hour visa window has worked well for France. How has this reflected in the growth numbers from India over the past 3-4 years since the new regime came into force?
Arrivals into France have shown an increase in the last few years thanks to the 48-hour visa deliverance implementation. In 2015, after the implementation of the 48-hr visa deliverance, the number surged to 500,000, and since 2016 France annually receives over 600,000 visitors.

Q Product training is a key measure for lead generation. What made you step ahead and launch an online e-learning programme to augment the process of customer acquisition?
Product training and information updates are the need of the hour. It is important to constantly update the trade on how best France can be showcased through its hallmark destinations and areas of expertise. The decision to launch an online training stemmed from the need of reaching out a wider database of travel companies and to educate them on how France could be programmed as a mono-destination and what other destinations in addition to Paris could be added to travel programmes. We are confident that this initiative will be a very useful tool for travel companies to enhance their product knowledge on France and its touristic offering. With these parameters in mind, December will also see the launch of an e-learning programme for Reunion Island enabling travel professionals to learn more about this destination nestled in the heart of the Indian Ocean.

Q Through this programme, which products and destinations are you bringing into limelight beyond Paris? What kind of learning will agents benefit through this programme in terms of curating itineraries?
The e-learning programme is an amalgamation of our strategy of focusing on France's hallmark destinations and our areas of expertise such as showcasing the Alps, nightlife, wine-trails and our innate savoir-faire. The programme has been divided into 4 modules each of which showcases a particular theme: cities, beaches, vineyards and ski-stations.

We've shortlisted a selection of 4-5 destinations per module which we feel are extremely relevant to the Indian market and for which there exists a demand already in the market. Through these 4 modules, participants will be able to learn more about key destinations within each module, essential sightseeing, local gastronomy, shopping and nightlife options. The objective therefore is to showcase how easy it is to expand an itinerary on France to include newer destinations in addition to Paris; thus enabling the potential traveller to enjoy a memorable holiday experience.

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