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Emirates helps Lyon welcome the world.

EMIRATES launched its inaugural flight to Lyon in December 2012, the airline's third destination in France. The new route has opened tourism opportunities for Lyon to market itself as a tourism destination among Arab travellers.

Lyon is the largest city in the Rhone-Alpes region and lies in a strategic location in the natural plain of the Rhone Valley. The city boasts of a rich heritage that dates back to the Roman era and is also home to a fifth century Romanesque-Gothic style Lyon Cathedral and the Unesco World Heritage site, the Croix-Rousse district juxtaposed with the modern Tony Garnier Hall.

Francois Gaillard, head of Lyon Tourism office was in Dubai recently to market this city. "The launch of the new Emirates to Lyon has been very successful for us. France as a destination is already very popular with the Arab travellers and just like Paris, Lyon -- which is the second biggest city in France -- has a lot of potential to grow as a tourism destination attracting both the corporate and leisure guests.""The city is a world heritage city with a huge shopping and cultural offering. The city is also popular for its haute cuisine having earned the label of the 'capital of French Gastronomy' with over 2000 restaurants in Lyon."Surrounded by mountains, its old town is a Unesco World Heritage site and has the second-largest concentration of Renaissance architecture in Europe. The city also hosts a number of events including Film Festivals, Nuits Sonores Electronic Music Festival, ballet and opera performances and the popular Festival of Lights which attracted four million tourists last year. "Lyon is an open city and we are used to welcoming people. This new direct link is an incredible opportunity for us. We are working not only on tourism, but also want to develop educational opportunities and cultural exchanges between Dubai and Lyon. "Dubai is already a popular destination among the French and there is a strong influx of outbound guests from Lyon. Working with Emirates has given us a huge opportunity to develop and boost our presence here and we want them to be satisfied with the cooperation. This will include working with travel agents and tour operators to increase product knowledge of the destination and what we offer," added Gaillard.

Other plans include preparing the city of Lyon to welcome guests from the region. Gaillard adds that the new Emirates route also opens tourism opportunities for Lyon from the rest of the Middle East region and further afield from Asia, Australia and Japan.

"The goal of Emirates Airline is to connect UAE and the region to the world and so opens opportunity for us too. We hope to tap new markets like India and China besides boosting our existing relationships with markets like Japan and Australia," he said.

Last year the city welcomed 5.5 million visitors globally with 70 per cent of guests being business travellers. "Currently the Arab tourists constitute only a small percentage of that number but we expect that to change with Emirates' direct flights to Lyon," Gaillard added. The city of Lyon currently offers over 15,000 hotel rooms with another 1,000 room expected to come on board this year. Closer in the region, Atout France regional director, Karim Mekachera is also enthusiastic about the new direct connection into Lyon.

"France recorded an impressive 1.2 million tourists from the Mena region in 2012. Tourists from the region love Paris and we have seen a considerable growth in visitors from markets like Saudi Arabia recently," said Mekachera.

A major challenge from the region is the fact that the Arab travellers lack of initiate to when it comes to exploring France's diverse tourism offerings. However, Mekachera is confident that the new route will change that perception. "We are working together with Emirates Holidays to develop packages to Lyon combines with other cities like Paris, the French Alps or even Geneva," he added.

Lyon has traditionally remained a business destination but is now looking to tap its leisure potential too. "I think it's all about creating awareness and our missing as a tourism board is to bring together all the tools and knowledge for agents and our trade partners so that they can put together the right Lyon experiences for their clients," he concluded. Copyright 2008

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Publication:Travel & Tourism News
Date:Apr 1, 2013
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