Do You Speak Touriste?

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A recent initiative of the Paris Chamber of Commerce has sought to redress the poor reputation for welcome in the capital

Launched towards the end of last month, the initiative is entitled “Do you speak Touriste / Vous Parlez Touriste?” The aim is to turn up a notch or two the warmth level in the welcome of those working in the tourism sector in the greater Paris region.

“The goal is to counteract the bad reputation for hospitality in Paris and the greater Paris region,” explains Jean-Pierre Blat, director general of the regional tourism committee of Paris-Ile-de-France.

“You don’t offer the same welcome to a Japanese and an Italian,” he says. “There are cultural codes to take into account, and so you need to adapt accordingly.” According to Blat, “you need to understand that 50% of tourists will return and the rate of satisfaction of tourists in this region is up to 97%.”

The whole campaign rolled out over the last few weeks and involved a website and printed guide that was distributed to all those involved in the tourist trade in the region. In it, information on the various nationalities that visit Ile-de-France is detailed; their spending habits, length of stay, manners and expectations. It also gives translations for key words in various languages, such as “hello”, “welcome”, “thank you” or “good-bye”.

“We’re also working in collaboration with the police prefecture of Paris and the Chinese or Japanese tour operators in order to improve tourists’ security,” Mr Blat pointed out. At the end of May, many luxury stores appealed to the political powers to act, estimating that the issue of lack of personal security on the part of tourists was one that was threatening jobs in the capital. In April, workers at the Louvre museum went on strike in protest at the rise in the number of assaults and pick-pocketing incidents affecting employees and tourists alike. The Paris/Ile-de-France region is the world’s leading tourist destination with some 29 million tourists in 2012.

    Below are some extracts from the “Do you Speak Touriste?” guide on the behavioural patterns of visitors to Paris:

AMERICANS: spend the largest portion of their budget on lodging and like to eat dinner at 18:00. An American “doesn’t hesitate to introduce himself by his first name.” They especially enjoy the beauty of Paris lit up at night.

CHINESE: appreciate personalized suggestions about where to go for the best shopping – which is what they spend most of their money on while in Paris. A smile and a hello in Chinese goes a long way.

SPANISH: travel mostly with their families and generally eat dinner quite late, so warn them about opening and closing times. They often come by car and are interested in free events.

FRENCH: don’t want to be treated like tourists and often eat foreign cuisine while in Paris. They spend on average the least of the 11 nationalities surveyed.

ITALIANS: can be impatient tourists, but a little attention to their children goes a long way.

JAPANESE: expect comfort and cleanliness, but are unlikely to complain while abroad. However, they will pass on their criticisms once home.

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