I love France. As, presumably, do the 80 million others that visited the gorgeous Gallic nation in 2016, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNTWO), which monitors such things.
 
These arrivals stats, despite declining by about two million from the year before, make the country the world’s top tourism destination. But more to the point, I find it heartening that France retained its No. 1 status from 2015, despite an annus horribulus in 2016 that saw a dozen separate terrorist incidents take place on its soil.
 
To compare, the U.S. also shed about two million visitors in 2016 due, one might assume, to its own domestic disaster.
 
Still, it’s good to see, and good for the travel industry to see, that travellers have not abandoned France. Certainly, Paris took a short-term hit after the worst of the incidents (a colleague at the time said he wished every visit to the Louvre could be so crowd-free), but visitors’ love for the Eiffel Tower and all the city’s amazing sites and museums, its food, and yes, even the people, have put the City of Light back in the spotlight.
 
I’ve been to Paris many times – enough to now put the tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe and Sacré-Coeur in my rear-view mirror and seek out some of the rarer, though still quintessential Parisian experiences: discovering the creepy Catacombs, finding Jim Morrison’s grave in the Pere Lachaise cemetery, trying to get a seat at a street-side café (and then paying a fortune for the privilege)…
 
And over the years, since my first visit to France in the early ‘80s, I’ve learned to drive standard in Paris; run out of gas near Calais; slept on a (rocky) beach in Nice; gone topless in St. Tropez; picnicked with wine, cheese and bread in Provence; been unimpressed by the champagne in Champagne (sorry, I just don’t like the stuff); attended travel conferences; and once was enlisted to drive a Transat press group around hilly Aquitaine in a mini-bus for a week because I was the only who could drive standard (thank you, Paris!).
 
It’s a life-time of special memories that I’m sure many others can relate to.
All of which is to say (in my best half-remembered high school French): Vive la France! Je t’aime! À bientôt!
 

Trade Ticker

 
• Icelandair has a new free service that aims to help passengers “defeat wasted time while travelling.” The service allows passengers to transform their boarding pass into a Stopover Pass, offering them access to series of entertaining performances, such as plays, concert or sports tickets and more, some including airline staff. The program is in effect until March.
 
• Emirates and flydubai have joined forces to leverage each other’s networks and accelerate growth. The two airlines will continue to be managed independently, but the new partnership will include code-sharing, and integrated network collaboration with coordinated scheduling. Emirates is one of the world’s top international carriers, while flydubai has been growing steadily in the Gulf region and beyond since taking flight in 2009. The airlines’ hub will be Dubai.
 
• The famed Oberammergau Passion Play may not be taking place until 2020, but Insight Vacations notes that “planning [is] underway and tickets [are] already for sale.” The unique event, which sees 1,500 villagers re-enact the life story of Jesus Christ, occurs every 10 years (and has for about 400 years), is a highlight of select Insight Germany and Italy itineraries. Meanwhile, Globus has released a brochure dedicated to its 14 packages that include a visit to Oberammergau for a performance of the play.
 

This & That

 
• Ensemble travel agency owners, frontline counsellors, and preferred partners will be on their way to Dallas this fall to attend the 2017 Ensemble Travel Group International Conference set for October 16-20 at the Hyatt Regency Dallas at Reunion. Conference highlights include renowned keynote speaker Ryan Estis.
 
• A new luxury hotel opens in Belfast, North Ireland, Sept. 10, drawing on the city’s ties with the Titanic. The 119-room Titanic Belfast Hotel is located in the historic, painstakingly restored Drawing Offices, with views of the Harland & Wolff shipyard where the world’s most infamous ocean liner was built. “History and heritage helped build this hotel, and it can be seen in every aspect of the finish, from the carpet to the cornices,” says John Doherty, Group Creative Director of Harcourt Developments. Public tours of the historic building will also be offered.
 
• Twelve of England’s historic cities have collaborated to develop an innovative augmented reality (AR) product, set to bring heritage to life in a dynamic new way. Using the app, visitors can explore England's heritage sites in York, Bath, Cambridge, Carlisle, Chester, Durham, Greenwich, Lancaster, Lincoln, Oxford, Salisbury, and Stratford-upon-Avon. The app is available to download for free in google play and on the app store or at www.historic-cities.com/stories.
 

Words of the Week!

 
“We have a ridiculous amount of restaurants for a city with such a small population. When you think of the restaurant to person ratio, it’s incredible…”
 
- New Orleans Visitor & Convention Bureau VP of Communications Kristian Sonnier on the city’s amazing gastronomic and culinary landscape, which boasts over 1,500 restaurants for a population of half a million people (plus visitors)
 

 
Eiffel Tower
Credit: PIXABAY

The Eiffel Tower, from any angle, is always exciting.

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