Top tourism officials from Paris used a Rugby World Cup France 2023 gala in Sydney as a platform to make a play for non-stop flights from Australia to the French capital.
Speaking at the annual Atout France Soirée on Monday night, in front of close to 400 VIP executives from a variety of fields, including travel advisors and travel companies, Christophe Decloux, CEO Paris Region Tourism Board said the event was an opportunity to build awareness for direct flights.
Decloux, who had met with travel partners earlier in the day at a French workshop, said of the 1 million Australian travellers that visit France annually, half include Paris in their itinerary.
He said next year’s World Cup was a great opportunity for Paris Region to capitalise on extended stays by Australians for the seven-week tournament.
Accompanied by three other Paris Region senior officials, Decloux said “We’re here seeking a direct from the east coast of Australia to Europe, and mainly Paris.”
“I know we have the West Coast going from Perth to London and Rome, and not Paris yet, but let’s try to make a direct flight for France for 2023 from Sydney to Paris,” he said, which garnered support from an enthusiastic audience.
“We’re going to need every one of you here to support this for it to happen,” he remarked, quipping he’d welcome anyone to speak to Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce to garner support.
Visit Paris Region was last in Sydney three years ago in the build-up to what was then expected to be the 2020 Rugby World Cup, subsequently delayed by two years due to the COVID pandemic.
“Australia is so important for us,” Decloux added.
The event at Sofitel Sydney Wentworth was held to celebrate the 2023 Rugby World Cup in Paris, which today [Friday 9 September] marks the 100-day countdown until the first match in the tournament is played between New Zeland and France in Saint-Denis. Approximately 600,000 foreign visitors are expected to make their way to France for the 45 days of competition.
The World Cup 2023 will be held in cities across France, including Lille, Lyon, Nice, Marseille, Nantes, Bordeaux, Toulouse and Saint Étienne.
Loic Chovelon, CEO Provence Cote d’Azur Tourism also spoke highly of the Australian market at the event, saying Australia is a “booming and strategic market” for the destination, with the region to host 10 World Cup matches (or more than 20% of matches).
For the first time, RWC fans from across the world will have the opportunity to purchase tickets for individual matches to Rugby World Cup 2023. For the general public, the sale will begin on Thursday 15 September at 6pm local time. View the official site for more information.
This week’s soirée gave guests the chance to rub shoulders with past and current Australian rugby greats, dozens of personalities and dignitaries, including the newly appointed Consul General of France in Australia, Martin Juillard, just a few days into his new role.
In typical fashion, Patrick Benhamou, Atout Frane’s Regional Manager, assembled the Crème de la crème of French companies in Australia to support the gala, including Accor, Lalique, Chloé, L’Occitane and Le Creuset.
Meanwhile, French-born acclaimed chef Guillaume Brahimi revealed to gala guests details of a new TV series that will showcase his favourite cuisine in each of Paris’ 20 arrondissements, along the way highlighting his top hotels, coffee houses and restaurants, artisans and craftsmen. Guillaume’s Paris will run over eight episodes, commencing 22 September 2022 on SBS.
Lead image: Patrick Benhamou, Regional Manager, Atout France with Jane Moggridge (left) and Erin Kramer, both from Viking and Liz Glover (right), Silversea.