France: the most admired and an all time favourite tourist destination

France as a tourist destination never ceases to amaze. The country is the all time favourite for every kind of traveller. With its uniquely amazing diversity and opulence, France offers exceptional tourist experiences.

France is one of the most fascinating countries to explore and enjoy. Astonishing historical and natural sites, oldest buildings, beautiful countryside, glorious castles, serene beaches and many more interesting facets of the country make it the most admired and visited destination in the world. The country has continuously been at the top among countries in terms of foreign tourist arrivals, receiving more than 86 million travellers in 2015. In an exclusive interview with TnH, HIS EXCELLENCY ALEXANDRE ZIEGLER, AMBASSADOR OF FRANCE TO INDIA talks about the uniqueness, diversity and reputation of France as tourist destination, and why France is good destination for Indians. Here are excerpts of the interview:

Q. What is extraordinary about France as tourist destination?

France is a multi-faceted destination offering an exceptional diversity of experiences. With over 85 million visitors per year, France is the top global tourist destination: that is because in France each traveller can find something that appeals to him, from the iconic Eiffel Tower to a vast variety of regions that have each a unique distinct identity of their own: the Loire Valley and its fabulous castles and vineyards, the Provence and the French Riviera, the Alps and their world-famous ski resorts, Brittany and its beautiful sea landscapes, to name but a few. A kaleidoscope of holiday options await the traveller, including seaside holidays, vineyard and gastronomy trails, city breaks, adventure escapades, alpine retreats and selfdrive getaways. Let us not forget about France’s overseas territories with their unique cultural identities. France finds favour with every genre of traveller, from the first time traveller eager to discover iconic monuments to the discerning traveller in search of experiences related to gastronomy, culture and art, to the corporate traveller in search for exceptional venues and locales for incentive movements. An important and intangible aspect of France is its unique art de vivre, reflected in the everyday life of the French.

Q. Why do you think that France is good destination for Indian visitors?

France ticks off many boxes on the wish list of Indian travellers. From discovering popular landmarks to experiencing offbeat activities, a plethora of options await the Indian visitor. The French travel industry has made concerted efforts to understand and cater to the requirements of this market such as including Indian specialities as part of breakfast for visiting Indian groups to organising Jain meals at famous Parisian cabarets. Vegetarian food and Indian cuisine have become popular in France which makes it easier for Indian travellers to source restaurants serving meals of their choice. A growing number of the French also speak in English which creates many opportunities for interaction and an enriching cultural exchange. In addition, France is perfectly positioned as a family destination and offers a multitude of choices in terms of accommodation, amusement parks, family-friendly activities that could appeal to Indians who prefer travelling with their families.

Q. How simple is the visa process of France for Indian travellers? How about first time travellers? How does French visa process service remain competitive?

Since January 2015, Indian travellers can obtain their French visas within 48 hours from the date of submission. This deadline was not impacted by the implementation of biometrics for all Schengen states last November. The new biometric system was introduced to facilitate travel throughout the Schengen Area and help issue long-term visas more easily. The French Embassy in India delivers a large number of 3- or 5- year circulation visas to frequent visitors to France. Regarding first-time applicants, eight new VFS centres have been opened throughout India, bringing up their number to a total of 14, to ensure that they do not need to venture too far from their residences to submit their visa applications. Applicants can submit their cases at any of these 14 centres present in the country.

Q. How important is the Indian outbound market for France? How many Indian tourists visited France last year?

India has become a priority market for France. Indian arrivals to France have shown a dynamic increase in the last few years. In 2015, Indian visitors in France touched the half million mark. Our objective is to welcome many more. The Indian travel fraternity has been very proactive in their promotion and showcase of our destination by including new regions and varied experiences possible in France to align with the needs and requirements of today’s discerning Indian traveller. We are grateful to the Indian travel fraternity and the media for their unwavering support towards our destination.

Q. How is the air-connectivity between the two countries?

France and India enjoy good air connectivity. Air France operates 17 weekly flights in summer and 20 in winter from Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru to Paris. Air India operates 7 weekly flights from Delhi to Paris and Jet Airways operates 7 weekly flights from Mumbai to Paris in code share with Air France.

Q. What do you like the most about India?

India is such a great, diverse, rich and fascinating country: the ancient civilization and culture she has inherited, the thrilling present and of course the great promises of the future. In addition, the warmth and hospitality of Indian people are most endearing. I arrived in India only a few months ago but I felt at home immediately. France has an excellent relationship with India that enables us to build many concrete and ambitious projects together: I know that I will enjoy every minute of my stay here.

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