French try to shed reputation for rudeness

The socialist government in France is rolling out a plan to end their country’s reputation for rudeness to foreigners in an attempt to boost the tourist industry. 

France has long suffered from a reputation for extending a surly welcome to visitors, with haughty waiters in Paris being among the worst offenders.  Industrial action by public servants such as Air Traffic Controllers and rail workers also contribute to visitors’ less than favourable impressions of the country.

Ministers believe that part of the problem has been that France has tended to take tourism for granted with the splendour of Paris, the Cote d’Azur and the Alps.  It attracts the biggest number of foreign visitors a year of any country in the world, reaching 83m in 2012.

The tourism industry accounts for more than 7% of France’s national income, 2m jobs and 12 billion euros a year to France’s balance of payments. However, it earns less from foreign tourism than neighbouring Spain despite having 20m more visitors a year.

Under new plans, the government hopes to boost the number of visitors to 100m a year by 2030 which could create an extra 500,000 jobs.

Efforts will concentrate on upgrading the hotel sector, reducing street crime in Paris, easing the visa process and building an express rail link from the centre of Paris to the city’s major airport.

A major focus is also on improving the overall quality of service, particularly in restaurants after surveys revealed that tourists were often disappointed by their experience.

Minister for foreign trade and tourism Fleur Pellerin said;

“It’s very symptomatic.  People have a vision of great French cuisine and our great chefs.  They expect their experience of everyday food to be good, but sometimes it’s not.”

She also commented that service was “…a big issue, covering language but also friendliness.  We need to work on it via training and building the self-esteem of people with tourists.”

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