“We moved from a basic tourist destination to an experience destination,” said Lioc Chovelon, Directeur General/CEO of the Provence-Alpes-Cote D’Azur Tourism Board at a workshop for Vancouver travel agents at the Shangri-la Hotel on Feb. 5.
“People used to come to Provence for rose wine, for natural parks, for big cities like Marseille and also for our warm welcome,” he continued. “But after all these things, which are iconic images of Provence, we have changed a lot.”
Encompassing a region that ranges from the Mediterranean to the Alps, Provence-Alpes-Cote D’Azur is the second destination in France, after Paris, for international visitors, welcoming over a million overnight stays from Canadians yearly. The region is forecasting a 10 per cent increase on that for 2018.
“You can do so many things in a very short time,” noted Chovelon, listing the half-hour drive that takes you from the Mediterranean Sea to a national park; to the Alps; to Cote d’Azur. “Everything is close. With Provence-Cote D’Azur-Alpes, you can have a perfect destination for 10 days or 15 days.”
Here’s a sampling of what’s new in Provence:
- Rhone Wine Tourism has developed an app that offers an “off-the-wall” visit to Avignon, the capital of Cotes du Rhone.
- The Villa La Coste, near Aix-en-Provence, boasts 30 works by Louise Bourgeois, Alexander Calder, Andy Goldworthy, Franck Gehry and Tadao Ando.
- MuSaMa, the Marseille Soap Museum, tells the story of Marseille’s soap-making tradition, from the first recorded soap-maker, Crescas Davin in 1371, to today. Visitors can learn to make their own soap here.
- The Palais des Papes in Avignon, has developed a “Histopad” to allow visitors to see the splendour of the pontifical court in the 14th century.
- The Chateau de Saumane, near L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, in Provence was once the home of the De Sade family, and is now open to the public.
- Mucem, the great Marseille museum, has created an interactive visit to some of its most secret places with Google Arts & Culture.
- Hotel Victor is a kilometre from the Aix-en-Provence TGV Station and a few minutes by car from the Marseille-Provence International Airport.
- Formula 1 auto racing returns to Provence June 24 with the running of the French Formula 1 Grand Prix at the Paul Ricard Track.
- The Chateau de Fonscolombe is a five-star residence and park, with a wine estate that dates to the Roman period and produces red, white and rose wines, all certified organic.
- The Best Western Plus Hyeres Cote d’Azur is a 10-minute walk from the centre of Hyeres and the station.
- The Villa Baulieu, near Aix-en-Provence, offers a wine safari to the only volcano in the region. Visitors can see the edges of the crater, the truffle patch, pine forest and the vines.
- Calanques National Park now has electric mountain bikes to ride along authorized trails to the cliffs of Cap Canaille, Port-Miou and Morgiou, the jewels of the Park.
- The Festival of Love runs through August 2018 is a declaration of love to the arts, to artists and to the region, through collective projects.
Tips for Travel Agents
When asked for three sales tips for Canadian travel agents, Chovelon noted the weather as number 1, citing 300 sunny days every year, and a blue sky without pollution.
Number 2 is the huge amount of things to do, ranging from fine dining and sampling fine wines, to exhibitions, antiques, theatre and UNESCO heritage sites.
Number 3 is the development of new experiences with local people.