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France courts Chinese tourists

2014-07-29 09:03 Global Times Web Editor: Li Yan

Since late January, the Consulate General of France in Shanghai has seen a jump in the number of Chinese visa applicants.

The change stems from France's introduction of a 48-hour, fast-track visa system for Chinese tourists, which French consulates based in China implemented on January 27 to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

"In the six months following the launch of this operation, the number of visas issued by the Consulate General of France in Shanghai has grown by 45 percent," said Emmanuel Lenain, the Consul-General of France in Shanghai.

Lenain said this fast service will boost the number of Chinese tourists to France, which has already been on an upswing over the last few years. According to official figures from the French government, the number of Chinese visitors to France rose by 23.3 percent year-on-year to 1.4 million in 2013.

There has not just been a rise in number, but a change in mindset. In the past, many Chinese visitors bought tour packages that covered multiple European countries, including France, usually for about 10 days or so. These days, however, they have been taking a different approach.

"More and more Chinese people are looking for quality travel," Lenain told the Global Times. "This means going in-depth at one destination instead of making short stays in multiple countries. Because of the great variety of travel experiences it offers, France is THE destination for these tourists."

New options for traveling to France opened up in May, when French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius visited China and signed an agreement with Ctrip, a Chinese travel agency, to actively promote more French destinations to locals.

"Under the agreement, Ctrip can offer more alternatives in terms of going to particular towns, booking hotels, and traveling in not only Paris but a variety of areas," Fabius said during a press briefing in May, according to the French newspaper Le Figaro.

"With this agreement, we will work closely with Ctrip to provide tailored-cut 'single-destination' packages. Chinese customers will be able to find new destinations in France according to their desires," Lenain told the Global Times.

He pointed out that there are so many places to discover and activities to enjoy in France that French people themselves can hardly experience them all. This is why he personally recommends that Chinese travelers take sufficient time and focus on a destination that matches their interests.

"For example wine tours to Bordeaux, Burgundy, Loire valley and many other wine-growing regions in France are really attractive because they allow foreign guests to better understand the creation of a wonderful product, and in the meantime to grasp the essence of the French culture. The same thing could be said about tours organized around other themes such as sport or gastronomy," Lenain said.

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