Atout France’s regional office in the Middle East is approaching the new year with renewed optimism, a refreshed e-learning platform for travel advisors, and its popular B2B event, Marhaba France.
We spoke to Karim Mekachera, Director Atout France, Middle East & Turkey Regional Office, to tell us more.
“Atout France has completely redesigned its e-learning programme for travel advisors and it will be launched very soon. We are planning to have several events to launch it in key cities around the region.”
The new e-learning platform is a project at the corporate level and will be launched around the world in different feeder markets, TTN
has learned. While there will be some core modules, others can be picked and chosen depending on what’s appropriate to the specific market, ensuring flexibility and relevancy in learning. Atout France has worked on building this e-learning programme with regional specialist and Travel Trade Manager Zamira Ismatova, Mekachera tells us.
“There is a huge wave of environmentally conscious travellers gathering force around the world. We need to wake up to their demands and to the demands of our planet, before it is too late”
– Karim Mekachera
“The resilience we have seen post Covid-19 from our markets gives us reason for hope. The figures we have seen for the winter season, especially for the French Alps region, are quite good,” Mekachera tells us. “The challenge now is to consolidate this recovery during the winter season.”
He tells us that Atout France is working with Dnata to further promote its regions and even specific actors such as Club Med, to create more awareness about the French Alps – for its abundant winter as well as the summer activities.
“When we started 10 years ago, the Middle East was not clearly visible in the arrival statistics for the Rhone Alps region. Does it suffice to say that today we have ski schools visiting because they have students from our region? It is truly heartening to see some conversion after a decade of pushing visibility of winter in the French Alps – now we have more and more clients visiting.”
In a recent interview with Alexia Laine, Managing Director, Courchevel Tourism, TTN
learnt that the Middle East is expected to be within the top three source markets in the ski resort of Courchevel this ski season. More than 16 per cent of total international visitors to Courchevel hailed from the Middle East, in the 2021/2022 season. This included 10.5 per cent from the UAE and 2.7 per cent from Saudi Arabia.
Marhaba France, the country’s appointment-led B2B event, will take place in Oman in Q1 this year, likely in collaboration with another tourism powerhouse that cannot be named at the time of print.
There are three key regions that are represented in Marhaba France every year, Mekachera tells us. The Paris region has taken the lead historically, followed by the French Riviera for the summer season and the French Alps.
“This year, it seems that the mix will be a lot more balanced. Last year, we had some 60 exhibitors. It’s not about numbers, it’s about the quality and type of partners. However, when you have big numbers, it means that there is a strong interest in the region.
“In 2023, if not, then in 2024, we will have some good news coming from the airlift side, new connections with the Middle East. Low-cost carrier flynas has just launched a direct, twice-weekly flight between Jeddah and Marseilles. This should be a precursor to more such routes.
“Saudi Arabia is a booming market and France is an important destination for Saudis in Europe, so things are certainly looking up. There is something unprecedented happening in this country with its drive for Vision 2030.
“In terms of number of tourists, Saudi Arabia is our first country in the region, with 250,000 to 300,000 tourists and it is poised for further growth. The country is opening up and so are the mentalities.”
The regional director of Atout France leaves us with something important to think about. “Globally, the way people travel will keep evolving, often in ways that are unpredictable. It is important to always remember that sustainability will be the key to the success of tourism going forward.
“There is a huge wave of environmentally conscious travellers gathering force around the world. We need to wake up to their demands and to the demands of our planet, before it is too late. We have come to a point where words are just not enough. It is time for pro-climate action.”