Meetings & Conventions: Incentive News
TOURISM OFFICIALS TRY TO WIN BACK U.S. BUSINESS
War Politics Hurt France
Sans dollars: Fewer groups visit Paris.
he war with Iraq officially concluded last month,
but at press time, tensions between the United States and France,
one of the fiercest opponents to the conflict, were lingering, and
a number of U.S. firms were continuing to boycott this highly
popular incentive destination.
“There is a very real backlash against France,” said Mike Helin,
founding partner of Ambassadors Performance Group, a Newport Beach,
Calif.-based incentive firm, adding that some U.S. firms are opting
not to plan incentives to the country for fear of offending
“Right now, we are not getting incentive business from the
United States,” confirmed Gilles Humeau, sales director at the
InterContinental Le Grand Hôtel Paris, which reopened in April
following an 18-month expansion and renovation. “If Chirac and Bush
could shake hands and move on, that would help,” he added.
The French Government Tourist Office did not have statistics on
program cancellations, but Anouk Thiebaut, the organization’s U.S.
manager for meetings and incentives in New York City, said the loss
of business has been significant.
The FGTO is hoping to curb the downturn with a vigorous campaign
to welcome Americans back. The tourist office launched a recovery
plan last month, which includes more familiarization trips, e-mail
blasts of special promotions for incentives, and enthusiastic
testimonial letters from U.S. incentive professionals who recently
The FGTO also is sending free Club France cards to 300 incentive
houses for discounts from 100 suppliers.
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