June 01, 2003
Meetings & Conventions: Incentive News

TOURISM OFFICIALS TRY TO WIN BACK U.S. BUSINESS War Politics Hurt France Sans dollars: Fewer groups visit Paris.
Sans dollars: Fewer groups visit Paris. The 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 potential winners.

“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 visited France.

The FGTO also is sending free Club France cards to 300 incentive houses for discounts from 100 suppliers.

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