France launches multimillion-euro tourist drive to end rude reputation
French foreign minister Laurent Fabius unveils drive to end "paradox" of France being world's top tourist destination but among the least welcoming
By Henry Samuel, Paris
6:09PM BST 11 Jun Protected content
With the attractions of Paris, the Alpine ski resorts, Riviera beaches and excellent cuisine, France has been the most visited country since the Protected content , welcoming 84 million tourists last year.
But the country has also been wrestling for some time with its reputation as one of the rudest places on earth for tourists.
Now the French are being urged to be "more welcoming", as France prepares to launch a multimillion-euro tourist investment fund aiming to boost tourist numbers to Protected content by Protected content .
Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, announced on Thursday that the fund would be launched this autumn.
"Tourism is a national treasure that needs to be protected, nurtured and developed – that's the aim of all these measures," he said.
Tourism accounts for two million jobs in France and seven per cent of its wealth.
Plans for the fund were unveiled after Mr Fabius received a special report on the state of tourism warning that the world flocks to France but often leaves less than impressed with the reception
The report by the "tourism promotion council" warned that the country was hamstrung by the French people's "difficult relationship with service and by extension our relation to others".
"Studies show that our performance in terms of welcome is below par," the report said, whose contributors include hotel and travel bosses and superchefs Alain Ducasse, Guy Savoy and Joël Robuchon.
In what it called a French "paradox", the report said: "The country is considered a must-see destination where expectations are high … but satisfaction ratings are 30 per cent below the European average in terms of price-quality ratio."
Britons deemed the French the least welcoming hosts in Europe, a Protected content found.
The TripAdvisor website found foreigners voted Paris the rudest city in Europe, while other researchers have reported that visitors thought it had the least friendly locals, the most unpleasant taxi drivers and the most aggressive waiters.
France has made several attempts in the past to improve local attitudes to tourists.
In Protected content , the Paris Tourist Board distributed a "politeness manual" for service industry workers. Three years earlier, the city paid "smile ambassadors" to be friendly to tourists at the city's main attractions.
But Mr Fabius said new measures would go further, saying a better reception for foreign visitors, the top two being Americans and Britons, "must become a national priority".
France would extend its fast-track visas to a range of other countries after introducing 48-hour delivery to China, Russia, South Africa, India and Gulf states.
Newcomers in airports and train stations should be greeted with the announcement " "welcome to France" in English and the message "thank you and see you soon" when they depart.
The new investment fund would also allow hotel owners to "borrow more", said the minister, who added that French tourism must improve its digital offering to stop "American websites confiscating" bookings and "taking 20 to 30 per cent from our hoteliers in the process".
Mr Fabius also hit back at what the French see as a perfidious "Anglo-Saxon" attempt to bad-mouth its gastronomy, most recently by failing to place any Gallic eatery in the top ten of Restaurant Magazine's World's 50 Best Restaurants.
France, the foreign minister said, would this autumn launch its own "thousand best restaurants of the world" list, which he promised would the "ranking of all rankings" and "be to gastronomy what the ATP world ranking is to tennis".