ALL ABOUT OCCITANIE: On the road with Atout France
Atout France has been on the road this week, rolling out its annual Destination France events for close to 350 agents, including events in Vancouver tonight (Thursday), Calgary last night, plus Montreal and Toronto. On average, close to two dozen suppliers are taking part, bolstered by nearly a dozen-strong supplier delegation from the Occitanie region of southern France.
The group was eager to come to Canada to support new flights to regional capital Toulouse by Air Canada starting in June, with five times weekly service, in addition to similar seasonal service from Transat.
With so much air service from Canada, and easy rail connections from Paris (two hours) or even Barcelona, agents were introduced to an area of south and southwestern France that is twice the size of Belgium, bordered by the Pyrenees Mountains and the Mediterranean sea and bisected by the Canal du Midi, thereby producing a wide variety of sightseeing and activity options, as well as travel styles (hike, bike, boat, etc.).
The region also boasts small hilltop towns and eight UNESCO world heritage sites, along with popular destinations such as Albi (Toulouse-Lautrec), Lourdes (religious pilgrimages), Nimes (Roman heritage and famous amphitheatre), Carcassonne (castle), Rocamadour (medieval town), and considerably more.
At the centre is Toulouse, the fourth largest city in France and gateway to the area, which can easily be combined with northern Spain.
Being France, gastronomy (include truffles and foie gras) is unparalleled, and Occitanie is the largest wine-growing region in the world with vineyards never far from any town or city.
Melanie Paul-Hus, director for Canada for Atout France, says Canadians’ passion for France is evident and her office is fielding considerable calls for information.
“We feel the pressure of the travel agencies” regarding the intense demand for travel, she told Travel Industry Today.
And she noted that with Destination France events at last back on schedule (after virtual events and taking place last May during the pandemic), agents are getting information in booking season rather than too late into the summer travel period.
With this in mind, Paul-Hus pointed out that France was “pretty full” last summer as travellers expunged pent-up demand for travel, adding that this year, “booking early will be the key.”
Moreover, with most airport and airline issues a thing of the past (presumably), even more travellers will be encouraged to resume travels that have been put off for over three years.
France will also be top of mind this Fall as host of the World Cup of Rugby (Sept. 08 to Oct. 28) with games taking place throughout the country. And in 2024, Paris will host the Summer Olympics.
Fortunately for Canadians, there will be more lift from this country this summer, including from Air France (which is introducing a new Ottawa gateway), in addition to the aforementioned Air Canada flights to Toulouse.
Paul-Hus acknowledges that public protests over pension reform and labour issues have troubled the country recently, at times causing travel cancellations (planes, trains, etc.), but she says the disruptions have been generally telegraphed in advance (allowing travellers to compensate).
Moreover, she adds, “People who know France know that people are very passionate about life. And the (protest) problems are rarely affecting long-haul travellers. I’m not worried.”
First published at Travel Industry Today