France continues to draw a strong growth in visitor arrivals from India, with the latter ranking at 15th in terms of visitor arrivals to the European nation. Set to catch up with pre-pandemic numbers of 704,230 visitors from India in 2019, 4,99,180 Indians travelled to France between January to June of 2023. This is as against 4,30,180 visitors in 2022 (with no travel in the first quarter because of Omicron).
According to Oxford Economic, Indian visitors to France spent USD 0.47 billion USD in the first half of 2023 as against USD 0.29 billion in 2022.
In October, a delegation of 33 French companies travelled to India to interact with the key representatives of the Indian tourism industry and promote their product over 2 days of scheduled meetings.
The event, organised by Atout France-France Tourism Development Agency in Kochi (Kerala), is the 5th edition of its flagship B2B event, that is aimed at building successful synergies between French tourism partners and the travel trade fraternity pan India. Last year, it was held in Udaipur, Rajasthan. “India is within the top 15 source markets for France and happy to announce that arrival figures for the first half of the year (mid June) are at an approximate of 4,99,000,” said Sheetal Munshaw, Director, Atout France India.
“We have had a very satisfying turnout for this edition of our showcase. Both our partners and agents displayed strong levels of motivation and a keen interest in the showcase of destination France to the discerning Indian traveller,” said Munshaw.
And now, with the Paralympic Games slated to take place in Paris next year, she opined that the interactions between the partners and agents would play a key role in establishing France’s strategic positioning as a preferred tourist destination for this year and the next.
This year also marks 20 years of Atout France’s presence in India.
An approximate of 1,500 scheduled meetings took place between buyers and exhibitors over the two days of interactive exchanges, reinforcing India’s potential as a source market for destination France.
The French delegation comprised of partners, including La Vallée Village (member of the Bicester collection), Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme, Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann, Le Clair De La Plume, Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann, Disneyland, Occitannie tourism, representatives from Nice and Cannes, among others, who have either maintained a steady presence on the market or are new entrants interested to make a foray into the market.
In fact, Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann is all set to make its India foray in Mumbai and open its gates to the public in 2024.
“The next and the 16th edition of the Rendez-vous en France trade show will take place in Toulouse, in the Occitanie region. So we are really excited to have them here,” said Munshaw.
“Though skiing is very niche in India, but Indians love the mountains and we are really looking forward to having more tourists travel to the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region,” she added.
Added Barabara Breheret on behalf of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme, “Apart from mountains, we would like to tap the Indians’ interest in French gastronomy. Our new product is aimed to promote gastronomy in three regions – Burgundy, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Les Airelles. We are looking to attract repeat travellers who seek experiences around wine and food.”
While travellers from Mumbai and Delhi have been the most active in taking up experience travel, Breheret feels there has been a growing interest from the Bengaluru market.
Breheret has been actively involved in promoting film tourism to France from India and said the interest in the region has only grown with more projects coming their way.
“Provence is another region that we would like to promote as part of experience tourism offering,” added Christian Douchement, Responsable des marchés internationaux et Promotion, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme. “We would really like the Indians to experience the magic of lavender fields. The slow travellers can especially explore the castles and organic life of this region,” he added.
Indians’ love for shopping has had brands such as La Vallée Village exploring bigger partnerships in India. “For some nationalities, La Vallée Village is a must do. It makes us happy to see that we are already on the list of Indian travellers,” said Patrick Allais, Senior Business Development Manager (Tourism and Partnerships), La Vallee Village.
“Indian travellers are particularly sensitive to attention, and we have great offerings in terms of welcome and services that make them feel special. We suggest they book through a travel agent as the incentives are much higher and therefore greater benefits,” he added.
According to Allais, in terms of sales, Indians are among the top five, especially during the peak season, between April and July. “When it comes to the Indians, there is no more ‘season’ per se any more. This year, we are seeing Indian shoppers visit us in big numbers till as late as October ,” he shared.
Lise Talbot Barré, Consul General of France in Pondicherry and Chennai, Didier Talpain, Consul General of France in Kolkata and Jean-Marc Séré-Charlet, Consul General of France in Mumbai, held special sessions to provide useful insights on visa submissions and other relevant information to the Indian partners.
“In Kolkata, we try to process short term visas within a week and the process is very smooth. All you need to have is your documents in place. We do not have territorial specialisation for application, but the applicant must be prepared to travel to the centre for completing the formalities that require their physical presence,” said Didier Talpain, Consul General of France in Kolkata.
“In 2019, we processed more than 30,000 visa requests and around 24,500 visas were delivered. This year so far, till August, we have processed more than 21,000 visa requests. So going by the trends, we are expecting to cross 30,000 visa requests processed,” said Lise Talbot Barré, Consul General of France in Pondicherry and Chennai, sharing data points from her region.
Of these, she said, 70 per cent made for short term visas and 25-30 per cent are business visas (short term), she shared, adding that the number for business travellers would actually be higher as a lot of business travellers go for short term visas when visiting the country to participate in fairs and other events.
According to the Consul Generals, too, there is no longer a “season” for travel any more as Indians have evolved into all-season travel, especially post-Covid.
And, with a smooth visa process and improved connectivity, the ease of travel has only grown.