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Friday, 05 January, 2018, 11 : 32 AM [IST]

Atout France recognises 5 agencies & operators at Ambassador’s Travel Awards in Mumbai

The third edition of the Ambassador’s Travel Awards honouring an exemplary showcase of France as a travel destination was held under the patronage of Ambassador of France to India, Alexandre Ziegler at the Sofitel BKC. Instated in 2015, under the aegis of the Ambassador of France to India and with the support of associate partner VFS Global, this year’s awards, continued the tradition of recognising and rewarding 3 travel agencies for an exemplary showcase of France through published itineraries and 2 tour operators for exceptional achievements in the visa domain.

The 2017 edition also introduced a new award category: the Best Journalist Category aimed at recognising and awarding the contribution of the media towards a showcase of France through published articles.

The event was graced by His Highness Shriji Arvind Singhji Mewar of Udaipur and was attended by decision- makers from trade and media domains alike.

Travel agents were invited to send in their best published itineraries which were later shortlisted by a panel of jurists that included the Ambassador of France to India, HH Shriji Arvind Singhji Mewar of Udaipur, Jean-Michel Cassé, COO - India and South Asia, AccorHotels, Olivier Boulland, Commercial Sales Director, Air France-KLM and Divia Thani, Editor, Conde Nast Traveller.

Sharing his thoughts, the Ambassador said, “France is the preferred tourism and business destination globally, receiving around 83 million tourists in 2016. It is a favourite outbound destination in India – in 2016 alone, a record 6 lakh Indian travellers visited France. We look forward to welcoming them every year in yet greater numbers. I am delighted to give these awards recognising the contribution of the members of the Indian travel fraternity who are the most dedicated to showcasing France’s matchless destinations.”

L-R: Karan Anand, HH Shriji Arvind Singh Ji Mewar of Udaipur, Alexandre Ziegler

Sheetal Munshaw with Nagsri Prasad, Head - Outbound Holidays, Mercury Travels
& Ashwini Kakkar, Executive Vice-Chairman, Mercury Travels, Alexandre Ziegler,
Varesh Chopra, Regional Director, SA & ME, Avalon Waterways (part of Globus
family of brands), Amentha Marques, BDM - West India, Avalon Waterways

L-R: Rajeev Kale, President & Country Head - Leisure Travel &
M.I.C.E, Thomas Cook India Ltd., Alexandre Ziegler, Madhavan
Menon, CMD, Thomas Cook India Ltd., Jean-Michel Cassé

QHow do you see the growth of the Indo-French ties through tourism with yet another edition of annual Ambassador’s Travel Awards soirée?
In 2016, we received 6 lakh Indian travellers, making an increase of 1 lakh since the previous year. We owe a large part of this achievement to those who are at the forefront of making France even better known to tourists. It is because destination managers love and promote France as they include it more often in their itineraries that the Indian public is taking greater interest in it and coming in yet greater numbers. The Ambassador’s Prize was instituted in 2016 precisely to thank them for this. These awards bring us closer to the travel trade fraternity and enable us to see current trends and the visibility and positioning of France in travel itineraries.

QAs a member of the jury, what are the diverse attributes you look for while selecting the winners?
I have looked at the most original itineraries, that highlight facets of France that are less familiar to the Indian public. I have looked at the authenticity and variety of the options given, because France is not just Paris and the Riviera. It has variety of landscapes and all manner of tourist attractions to offer. From the North to Corsica, from Brittany to Alsace, the Alps and overseas territories, France is ideal for all kinds of public: beaches, cities, mountains, countryside, and more. It’s not just a summer, but also an all-seasons destination. So this year, we’ve looked at how well France with its famous ski resorts and Christmas fairs has been highlighted as a winter destination as well.

QWhat is the significance of the tourism sector in the overall bilateral strategy of the Ministry?
Promoting tourism is a priority because people-to-people ties are the very basis of a truly substantive bilateral relationship. This is particularly true of our relationship with India. France and India have a strategic partnership that dates back to 1998 and strong cooperation on the most sensitive issues such as defence, energy, space and security. One of our objectives is to further enhance our ever-expanding range of exchanges, particularly in the areas of student mobility, culture, art, fashion, and tourism. This ambition is reflected in Bonjour India, an ongoing Indo- French platform aimed at showcasing all aspects of our relationship, with more than 300 events in 33 cities lasting till March 2018.

QHow does India rank in terms of priority for France and where do you see tourism numbers in the next 5 years from India?
Indian tourists are a top priority for France as it stands to be one of the most preferred European destinations among Indians. We are working hard, with Atout France and the Indian travel fraternity, to encourage this upward trend and highlight our country’s attractions to the Indian public. We are looking to reach one million Indian tourists visiting France by 2020.

The French travel industry has made concerted efforts to understand and cater to their requirements, from including Indian specialities on the breakfast menu to organising Jain meals at famous Parisian cabarets. Since January 2015, we have developed an attractive visa policy. Indian tourists can obtain their French visas within 48 hours from the date of submission. We also issue a large number of 3 or 5 year circulation visas to frequent travellers to France. Regarding first-time applicants, eight new VFS centres have opened throughout India, bringing up their number to 14.

Winners of the 2017 Ambassadors Travel Awards:
Visa Domain:
1. Thomas Cook India Ltd - The Diamond Award for registering the highest number of visa deliverances for 2016-2017 Award: A 2 night stay for 2 at the Fairmont Jaipur, a 2 night stay at the Novotel Chennai OMR and a 2 night stay for 2 at the Novotel Goa Resort and Spa compliments of Accor Hotels and a premium fragrance from M.Micallef perfumes
2. Cox and Kings - The Gold Award - Runner Up Award for registering the highest number of visa deliverances for 2016-2017 Award: A 2 night stay for 2 at the Fateh Prakash Palace in Udaipur and a signature fragrance from M.Micallef perfumes
3. Gustasp and Jeroo Irani - The Best Journalist Award for their prolific penmanship in promoting various facets of France through published media articles: Award: 2 premium economy class tickets on Air France, 2 nights at the Pullman Paris Centre Bercy and a dinner show courtesy Paradis Latin, a 3 night stay at Mercure Toulouse Centre Saint-Georges and a premium fragrance from M.Micallef perfumes.

1. Amazing Vacations - The Platinum Award for the best showcase of France as a travel destination Award: 3 night exquisite sojourn in Paris including 1 business class ticket courtesy Air France, a 2 night stay for 2 at the iconic Hôtel Plaza Athénée, a Dorchester Collection property. An indulgent gourmet promenade that includes one night accommodation at any property of their choice from Alain Ducasses’s Châteaux et Hotels collection including a signature lunch or dinner, a dinner show courtesy Paradis Latin and a signature fragrance from M.Micallef perfumes
2. Mercury Travels Ltd - The Diamond Award for the best showcase of France as a family-friendly destination Award: An 8-day river cruise for 2 from Paris to Normandy courtesy Avalon Waterways and a signature fragrance from M.Micallef perfumes
3. Destination Globe - The Gold Award for the best showcase of France as a winter destination Award: A 2 night stay at the ski resort of Les 2 Alpes, one day ski passes, a private lesson with a professional instructor, visits to the ice cave and ski gear rental. The alpine experience continues with a 2 night stay in the ski resort of Méribel and ski passes for Les 3 Vallées courtesy Les 2 Alpes and Meribel Tourisme and a signature fragrance from M.Micallef perfumes.

The occasion also saw Karan Anand, Head - Relationships and Supplier Management, Cox & Kings, for being recently bestowed with the Gold Medal of Tourism (Medaille d’Or), conferred on him by the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.

Sheetal Munshaw, Director, Atout France India, said, “We are sincerely thankful to His Excellency The Ambassador of France to India, Alexandre Ziegler for his continued and unwavering support that we have received towards the third edition of this prestigious Ambassador’s Travel Awards. While this distinction is a recognition of efforts put in by the trade towards showcasing France, it also motivates agents to create innovative itineraries that allow visitors to experience the best of versatile France. We are also delighted to see the quality and diversity of the manner in which the Indian travel fraternity showcases France with an increased focus on its multifaceted regions, hallmark destinations and experiences. The myriad tourism offering of France complemented by the seamless visa facilitation services and the enhanced air connectivity together contribute towards making France a preferred outbound destination for the Indian traveller.”

Sheetal Munshaw with Yves Perrin, Consul General of France in Mumbai,
Gustasp and Jeroo Irani, Alexandre Ziegler, Olivier Boulland, Commercial
Sales Director, Air France-KLM, Jean-Michel Cassé

Sheetal Munshaw with Sandeep Bhatija and Parul Mehta, Directors of
Destination Globe, Alexandre Ziegler

Sheetal Munshaw with Yves Perrin, Veneeta Rawat, Owner,
Amazing Vacations, Alexandre Ziegler, Max Smits, General
Manager – South Asia, Air France-KLM

Q What is the criterion for nominations/ submissions of entries?
This year, our award categories for itineraries included the best showcase of France as a winter destination, familyfriendly destination and an exemplary overall showcase of France as an experiential destination. In the visa domain, we had two awards for tour operators who had registered the highest number of growth in visa issuances. While the visa category winners were solely decided on the number of applications, the criteria for itineraries was a minimum 4 night stay in France and that submitted itineraries should be published or sold.

Q Has there been an increase in the submission of itineraries as compared to last year?
There has been an increase in the number of submissions every year and this year we have registered an increase of 20% in submissions over last year.

QHow has these awards reinforced France’s positioning as a preferred destination so far?
The awards are indeed a prestigious platform that recognise and honour the diligent efforts invested by the Indian travel fraternity towards promoting France. This coveted recognition, has inspired many travel agents to weave in unique travel experiences for their clients. There has been a consistent increase in the inclusion of different French destinations in travel programmes in addition to Paris. Each year, we receive itineraries that blend in different experiences that showcase the versatility of France. Most of the itineraries include newer French destinations in addition to Paris which helps overall increase the visibility and appeal of France.

QAny new categories that have been included for this year’s annual Ambassador’s Travel Awards soirée?
This year we will announce the launch of the Media award that aims to felicitate a deserving journalist for their descriptive portrayals of France through media articles. Our prolific travel writers, have through their articles, played an important role in transforming today’s reader into tomorrow’s traveller. Their contribution towards the growth of tourism is worthy of a special mention and the Ambassador’s Awards seemed a platform befitting for this prestigious recognition.

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