between innovation and uncertainty, tourism professionals face the challenge of welcoming foreigners

Hoteliers, restaurateurs, cultural institutions but also transport operators… Everyone will have to cope with the large influx of tourists from all over the world. How do they prepare?

Language barrier, lack of reference points, need for support and specific services… While no less than 15.3 million foreign tourists from more than 200 different nations are expected to the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, including 11.3 million for the Olympic Games alone organized from July 26 to August 8, tourism professionals must organize themselves to respond to the demands and requests of these populations who do not necessarily speak French, and thus participate in the success of what must be the biggest international sporting event. Between 2.6 and 3.2 billion euros in economic benefits expected excluding ticketing, according to the latest figures communicated by the Paris Tourist Office, it is especially important for professionals in the tourism sector not to miss the opportunity to enjoy the event.

Among the most invested protagonists, we find historical partners such as the Region and major transport operators. This is the case of the RATP, “official supporter» of the Olympics, which decided to pull out all the stops to best accommodate these tourists in the Paris metro network. In addition to the mobilization of 19,000 group agents every day on the network, teams of volunteers will also be there to reinforce the human presence in stations and stations. In fact, RATP intends to recruit 6,600 people including 4,900 permanent contracts, 1,000 work-study contracts and 700 integration contracts in 2023. A “unprecedented recruitment campaign» which aims to “ensure the expected offer on the networks” at this time.

Innovations for tourists

And to deal with the language barrier, RATP did not hesitate to call on artificial intelligence, by equipping itself with a brand new tool called TRAD.IV.IA to “TRANSLATION of Traveler Information using Artificial Intelligence“. Nearly 2,000 agents are already using the tool, available on their work tablets since June. With it, they can both translate texts into 17 different languages, but also broadcast audio messages (for the moment in 5 different languages ​​and up to 7 languages ​​for the Olympics). At the start of 2024, agents will also be able to broadcast multilingual messages on all digital media screens spread across the network.

At the same time, the RATP launched mobile ticket sales at the beginning of September, initially tested at Gare du Nord, Gare de l’Est, Montparne, Concorde, Champs Elysées-Clémenceau, Denfert Rochereau and Saint-Denis-Porte de Paris, which serves the Stade de France. There, mobile sales equipment will allow tourists to purchase Navigo Easy pes loaded with full-price or reduced-price t+ ticket books as well as pes loaded with single tickets. Two to three agents on average will be present in each station concerned, and up to six agents in Saint-Denis, to support them. If successful, the system will be strengthened, including the acquisition of new terminals, with a view to the Olympic Games.

Host territory of the event, the Île-de-France Region also wishes to do its part. After contributing to the financing of TRAD.IV.IA, she also participated in the development of a new application for spectators of the Olympic and Paralympic Games imagined “to guide them using real-time itineraries“. The application, which will be available in six languages ​​from next spring, will also offer “the possibility of purchasing dematerialized transport tickets», Specifies the region. And to participate in a better reception of tourists, it offers “11,000 places per year for short training courses to learn professional English, particularly in the fields of security, reception, tourism, hotels and restaurants or logistics“.

Same dynamism from the ADP group – formerly Aéroports de Paris – which has been anticipating for months the good reception of tourists but especially of the 10,500 athletes during the Olympic Games and 4,350 athletes during the Paralympic Games. Several experiments are also underway to improve access to the airport and their security. “The Games are an opportunity to demonstrate our know-how», explains Renaud Duplay. If he prefersto be careful» as to whether there will be many more people than usual in Paris airports, while they are still in a “period of resumption of activity», the director of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games project for the ADP group still puts himself “able to accommodate everyone“, “to open all terminals” if necessary.

Travelers will be able to benefit from a “VIP” service, as for athletes. Free for athletes but paying for the general public, it is developed in partnership with the start-up All the way. The latter is responsible for collecting the luggage directly from the hotel, and transporting it to the airport on behalf of the customers. Other experiments are underway, such as new security machines that allow computers, tablets and beauty products to be scanned without having to take them out, but also new biometrics pathways – from check-in to boarding. – which ensure the traveler pes through security checks quickly. Finally, Renaud Duplay insists on improving the care of people with disabilities, with new changing rooms.

Read also2024 Olympics: between celebration and restrictions, Parisians face the challenge of everyday life

Other professionals remain cautious

But not everyone necessarily sees the Olympic Games as a godsend, and is waiting to find out more before hiring new employees. In the world of culture, from the Louvre Museum to the Château de Versailles via the Eiffel Tower, “no trend seems to be emerging at this stage» respond in chorus from the main stakeholders. And if Parisian museums have planned to remain open during this period, as have theaters and cinemas, no one knows if visitors and other day trippers who come to enjoy the Olympics will also take the opportunity to educate themselves in the City’s cultural establishments. Light. At this stage, no recruitment is planned, nor any specific training to welcome foreign tourists who are already the preferred target of these museums.

For restaurateurs, particularly those located in the heart of Paris, the uncertainty resonates. “In the summer of 2023, we welcomed more than 6.5 million tourists, and there, we are promised 13.9 million visitors, including only 1.2 million foreigners.“, says Frank Delvau. For the president of the Union of Hotel Trades and Industries (Umih) Île-de-France, the cost-benefit ratio of the operation is not yet certain. The professional indeed points out a “cruel lack of information about the Olympics» and castigates “the complexity» restriction zones recently announced by the Paris police prefect. “There are restaurateurs who hesitate to open during the Olympics», ures the one who explains that they need three flows to exist: the flow of goods, that of our teams and that of our customers. “What to do if no one can access our establishments», he asks.

In hotels, we also remain cautious since for the moment, according to the boss of Umih, many managers would not have “not yet open reservations for the period“, waiting “to see the prices charged by the competition“. “Tourists who want to enjoy Paris will not come, those who want to see the Louvre or Versailles will not come, because the prices will be too expensive“, he believes. For the moment, it is difficult to imagine what the economic benefits will be for its sector, except perhaps “for the very high end“, to the extent that – as Frank Delvau points out – many sponsors “have planned to invite their VIP customers» in the most beautiful Parisian hotels and palaces. “But this will not be the case in the majority of establishments», he concludes.

Same concern for VTC drivers (transport cars with chauffeur), who are waiting to know under what conditions they will be able to travel during the Olympics, knowing that they have already been excluded from the famous Olympic lane reserved on the Paris ring road, unless that they do not transport customers, as do traffic restriction zones. “From what we see“, VTCs are not “not planned» in the general organization of the Games, present «neither in brochures nor in adver“, “excluded from meetings», deplores Arnaud Desmit. For the secretary general of the French VTC ociation, it is impossible that the 20,000 VTC drivers in Paris and its immediate surrounding area cannot participate in the Olympics.

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