Sheetal Munshaw, Director, Atout France in India speaks about trends and strategies post outbound tourism resumption
India still remains a promising source market, despite the pandemic deterring outbound tourism growth from India.
What is the current scenario of the tourism sector in France?
Travel to and from the European zone remains prohibited except for compelling, medical or professional reasons that cannot be postponed. On March 12, France announced that visitors from countries including Australia, South Korea, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, The United Kingdom and Singapore do not need a compelling reason to travel to France. There will be a quarantine of 10 days for Indian visitors coming to France. Based on the evolution of the pandemic, there will be a gradual reopening of café terraces and shops on a localized basis alongside resumption of certain sporting and cultural activities. However, nothing has been confirmed yet.
How are you tweaking your marketing strategy for 2021?
For India, in particular, as we are in the midst of a very serious health crisis, we think it only prudent to refrain from launching any active promotions at this time. We will continue with our digital initiatives and engage in soft promotions online which is essentially a continuation of our strategy from last year. When the time is right, we will be working on collaborations with influencers and other French brands to create aspirational content for France based on our areas of expertise. We will continue our engagement with the trade through webinars and e-learning initiatives and also organize our flagship B2B showcase our Explore France workshop in September either virtually or onsite depending on how the situation evolves over the next few months.
Post Pandemic, do you foresee India still featuring amongst your top priority markets? Please throw some light on this.
India is a promising and ever evolving source market for France. The bi lateral relations between our two countries continue to further strengthen in these times of duress. Once the situation allows for travel between the two countries, we will see a resurgence of inflow towards France. In the meantime, we remain committed to India as a market and continue to engage with key stake holders on both sides.
What will be the Indian travellers’ profile when tourism restarts?
We believe that the discerning traveler will be the first to plan a holiday in France once borders open. The FIT segment will see a first return to France with travelers vigilant about COVID protocols. People who have embraced travel as a way of life in the past will be the first to prioritize travel as we have already seen with some short haul destinations even during the pandemic. In terms of trends, self-drive holidays, conscious and immersive travel, and other sustainable forms of tourism could also manifest as foreseeable travel trends of the future.
Earlier most of the travellers combined several European destinations in the itinerary. With protocols and safety in the picture, do you see majority travellers looking at France as a standalone destination? Also, will this trend help in increasing the length of stay?
We have over the last few years been witness to an increase in France’s popularity as a solo destination and we believe that this pattern will only accentuate in the future. It is very likely to see a surge in demand for longer stays in France allowing for travelers to discover the country at their own pace which in turn will increase the length of stay in France.
By when do you foresee MICE and corporate travel market to bounce back?
The current situation does make it difficult to make any sort of projections, but we do hope that the MICE and corporate sector make a recovery not too long after FIT travel. Of course, with changes and adaptations in formats and a possible reduction in group sizes.