Ladies and gentlemen,
The President of the Republic has made tourism a major national priority.
It contributes to the development of France's regions, both urban and rural; it improves the quality of life and to the economic and cultural vitality of our country.
Tourism also helps bridge the divide between cultures and between countries; it strengthens France’s presence and influence throughout the world.
Tourism means very large numbers of jobs in the hotel, restaurant and leisure industries, but also in shops, museums, transportation and many other sectors.
Finally, tourism has a special place in our lives –our travels, our discoveries, our experiences and our leisure time.
You know the figures. France is the most visited country in the world. We welcomed more than 83 million visitors last year.
We are also the favoured destination for our own holidays, since the French prefer to travel within our borders rather than go abroad.
This leading position encourages us to continually aim higher, to better meet the needs of both our French and international visitors.
To meet these challenges, the Prime Minister decided to launch the National Conference on Tourism and has entrusted me with its organisation.
Our goal is simple: to remain the world's leading destination and become the leading European country in terms of economic benefits. This valuable asset must be put to better use in the service of regional development and employment.
The conference will mobilise all stakeholders, all who, whether directly or indirectly, contribute to making France an appealing destination. These include regional and local authorities, associations, private- and public-sector professionals, Atout France and all the ministries involved.
But I would also like each of you to participate, to send us your thoughts online, because we need to pool our goodwill and jointly reflect on a genuine national strategy for tourism.
We will carefully examine your contributions; your experience, opinions and comments are invaluable in ensuring that the proposals that will be made at the outcome of this conference will fulfil every requirement.
Working groups have been set up around nine themes and meetings will take place throughout the country.
We will tackle a range of topics, including various means for adapting our offer to the needs of our visitors, the competitiveness of French firms, improving the quality of the reception visitors are given, and boosting professionalism.
Through this conference, we wish to meet the new expectations fostered by the digital age and increased competition between countries, by the challenges of cultural and sustainable development of the territories, the preservation and enhancement of our heritage, the influence of our gastronomy and expertise, the safety of our visitors, the efficiency of our transportation, the modernisation of our infrastructures, the learning of foreign languages, but also the need to be a great nation in the eyes of the world, with a welcome for all.
This national conference is a fine ambition for our country, in favour of a sector with a bright future, a modern and dynamic sector that can come together even more to develop greater innovation in its offers, so that they are extraordinary, just like our destinations, our products and how we welcome our visitors.
Innovation and modernisation are the two pillars of this conference.
The stakes are high. Tourism in France employs two million people, both directly and indirectly and involves more than 270,000 companies. It represents 12 billion euros in turnover – 7% of our GDP – an exceptional transportation network, equipment and regional planning that directly benefits our fellow citizens.
Tomorrow, with your participation, it will be even better.
Tourism is an opportunity for France. I am counting on you to make this conference a success for the sake of our country!