France urges more SE Asians to visit ahead of Euro 2016

8th April 2016, Comments 0 comments

Southeast Asian travellers were encouraged to visit France Friday, as a top tourism official said adequate security measures had been put in place following two major terror attacks in Paris last year.

France remained the world's top tourism destination in 2015 despite the attacks in the capital, senior tourism official Matthias Fekl, during a promotional visit to Singapore ahead of the Euro 2016 football championship.

A record 85 million people visited France in 2015, up from 83.8 million in 2014, and the government plans to increase this to 100 million by 2020.

"Zero risk does not exist anywhere in the world anymore, this is today's reality," Fekl, minister of state for foreign trade and tourism promotion, told reporters.

"But we have enhanced security and we will be very careful of course for every event."

France was shaken by two major terrorist incidents in 2015.

Gunmen and suicide bombers staged a series of coordinated attacks in Paris last November, leaving 130 people dead and hundreds wounded. The attacks were claimed by the Islamic State group.

In January 2015, 12 people were killed when jihadist gunmen attacked the office of the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

Fekl said France was determined to proceed with all scheduled culture and sporting events, including Euro 2016 which runs for a month from June 10.

"Nothing could be worse than to cancel things. Once the free countries start to cancel things, terrorists have won their fight," he said.

Tourism in France accounts for seven to eight percent of national wealth and employs two million people, with those from Southeast Asia making up a large portion of the visitors.

Some 550,000 people from the region visit France annually -- behind China (1.7 million) and Japan (600,000), according to official data.

Fekl was in Singapore following a trip to Indonesia to drum up tourist interest.

The country's trade promotion agency, Atout France, recently opened offices in Singapore and Jakarta to further tap into the Southeast Asian market.

French Ambassador to Singapore Benjamin Dubertret said the embassy is speeding up the visa approval process for tourists as part of the effort.

© 2016 AFP

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