France’s Foreign Minister has pleaded with French citizens to stop being rude to visitors in a bid to boost the country’s tourism industry.
According to the Independent, Laurent Fabius has told his countrymen to stop living up to their international reputation for unfriendliness and help boost tourist numbers in a bid to reach 100 million by 2020. He said: “Tourism is a national treasure that needs to be protected, nurtured and developed – that’s the aim of all these measures. To put it diplomatically, we have room for improvement here. When we come up against a foreign tourist, we are all ambassadors for France.”
There is some work to be done. The Telegraph highlights a 2012 poll which showed Britons found the French the least welcoming hosts in Europe and also reports that the TripAdvisor website found foreigners voted Paris the rudest city in Europe. Other researchers found that visitors thought France has the least friendly locals, the most unpleasant taxi drivers and the most aggressive waiters.
The report by the “tourism promotion council” warned that the country was hamstrung by the French people’s “difficult relationship with service and by extension our relation to others…Studies show that our performance in terms of welcome is below par.”
The campaign also aims to increase revenues for the industry responsible for two million French jobs and seven per cent of its wealth. The US is the second most visited country in the world, enjoying about 70 million tourists. Data from the World Bank shows that in 2013 visitors spent US$214,772,000,000 in the US, whereas France’s 84.7 million tourists spent just US$66,064,000,000.
The Independent notes that the drive may help alleviate the symptoms of Paris Syndrome, “a short-lived psychological disorder which may cause anxiety, depersonalisation and even hallucination, and is often experienced by visitors to the city.”
First reported in French psychiatric journal Nervure in 2004 it appears to affect Japanese tourists the most, so much so that Japanese embassy in Paris runs a Paris Syndrome hotline. The syndrome is believed to be the result of severe culture shock caused by an idealised image of Paris which fails to match the reality.