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Bringing Americans Back To Paris

Americans have reduced their travel to France since 9-11 and Paris is feeling the pain. I’m not talking about most of you who have been bitten by the Paris bug I call “La Maladie” — but by the larger percentage of American tourists who simply come here for a week to see what all the hullabaloo is about.

At first, it was just that they weren’t traveling at all — for all the fears associated with hijackings, terrorist activity and overzealous Homeland Security measures. Then, there was, and still is, press about antisemitic activities in France and concerns by the American Jewish community. The war in Iraq came along, France took a different position and all hell broke loose — French Fries became Freedom Fries and perfectly good French wine was being poured down the drain. On top of all that, the American dollar became weaker against the Euro, so travel became more expensive. Yikes! What next?

We Americans living here have been put in a defensive position, having to explain how Paris is still Paris and what a shame it is they’re depriving themselves from enjoying what we have every day of the week. We have missed having our brethrens flooding the Champs-Elysées, lining up at Berthillon for a cone of sorbet and sipping an expensive espresso at the Café Les Deux Magots. Our guest rooms are emptier, our hearts are heavier.

So aches the Paris Tourist Office, too, and of course, all the businesses who earn their daily bread from the American tourists that used to book their favorite little inexpensive hotel on the Left Bank a year in advance, make reservations at the 3-star restaurants, buy Eiffel Tower key chains for all their friends back home.

This week, I received a communiqué from the l’Office de Tourisme that a major plan is in action to revive the American tourist market. They hope to counterbalance the disastrous repercussions of the American press and persuade visitors to return to France.

The theme of the campaign is MERCI [AMERIQUE — implied]…on the 60th anniversary of D-Day this year with a major effort from May to September to emphasize historical links between our two countries.

The week surrounding July 4th is expected to be especially poignant. Illustrious Americans with historical connections to France will be invited to participate…politicians, writers, artists, musicians. The city will unveil a special commemorative plaque on a building of note and Mayor Bertrand Delanoë will welcome these visitors to the City Hall. At the foot of the Statue of Liberty at the Ile de Cygnes on July 4th, there will be a ceremony and a duplex Web cam positioned on the Statue of Liberty in New York for a visual exchange of the two. “Merci” may be lit on the Eiffel Tower and a plane will pass overhead lighting the sky with “Merci.” The Pont de Grenelle, just nearby, will be draped in banners shouting “Merci,” as well.

American visitors will be invited to celebrate July 4th in Parisian establishments, to be welcomed with open arms…and to offer a cocktail or gift. More importantly, tourist industry businesses are being encouraged to offer promotional enticements, special prices to attract would-be visitors.

France Guide, the official magazine of the Maison de la France, is distributing 500,000 copies this month hoping to reach 1.2 million people with 11 pages of articles carrying these messages…”The Paris of Americans,” “Paris — a Good Value,” Paris — an Ideal Weekend Destination,” “Paris — for a Family’s First Visit,” “Paris — a Community for African-Americans.”

And, being the American living in Paris, who after years of living here can more clearly distinguish the cultural differences…I read all about their plans, and thought yes, how appropriate. Then, I realized that of course, they see this from their culturally French point of view…that for them, it’s all about the relationship between us, the historical ties and the sibling rivalry we have experienced these last few years. So, they want to reach out, say thanks, we really do appreciate you and all you’ve done and remind us that so much of America has France to thank, too.

But, is that how America really will react? As an American, I think we need much more hard-core incentives than ‘thank you’ to get us to weather the hassles of going through airport security, bite the bullet to spend 25% more when we change our dollars to euros, defend our reasons for coming to France with our friends who think the French hate Americans…

So, you tell me, so that I can tell the l’Office de Tourisme, what do you think will really bring Americans back to France? If you have ideas you wish to share, write me at Bring_Americans_Back

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
E-mail: [email protected]


P.S. Next week I’m headed to the the International Living Live Overseas Conference in Delray Beach, Florida and then to San Francisco for the Living and Investing in France Conference where I look forward to speaking to all of you who are attending in person. If you are interested in registering for either conference, now’s your last chance…time is running out. click here for Delray Beach or for San Francisco.


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