Sometime correspondent (and blogger on all things culinary near Puget Sound) Ronald Holden is in New York for French Affairs, a conference put on by the French Government Tourist Office.
Although Ron rightly complains about this agency's overly busy Web site (although I love that it leads to a vlog called Lost in Francelation), he finds much to admire about France's unified national program for attracting tourist dollars:
France was the first country to target a wide variety of niche travel markets: gay & lesbian, Jewish, religious, Hispanic, luxury, first-timers, retirees, French expats. Theme travel, too: culinary, wine, ski, spa, and so on. There's no comparable agency promoting the entire USA; individual companies (airlines, hotel chains, Disneyland destinations) and individual states and cities are expected to do their own marketing campaigns. The Sarkozy government pitched in to help France's embattled hospitality sector by cutting the VAT on restaurant meals by 75 percent, but hotel revenues, in the world's most visited country (77 million foreign tourists a year) are still down 13 percent.
So: Not only does France go out of its way to welcome everyone and tempt them with everything, it's also applying good old-fashioned tax policy to make eating out cheaper across the entire country.
That can only encourage longer stays and accomplishing something I was unable to do last year: tear myself away from Paris proper and see the countryside.
It makes me wonder who could possibly take the reins and promote Brand America with one voice, 'round the world. I mean, besides Disney.