Many Parisians know that they're perceived by visitors as unwelcoming and snooty. They also know tourism is a boon to their economy, and that foreigners bring big money to the City of Light. In fact, the French capital city was the most-visited destination in the world for foreign tourists last year, with 29 million people streaming through. It is a privileged position Parisians hope to retain on the world stage, so those in the tourism industry — which accounts for about one in 10 jobs in the region — are learning to smile a little bigger at tourists, or at least how to say hello in a handful of different languages.
In hopes of better accommodating tourists and dispelling some of the less-savory Parisian stereotypes, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Paris Ile-de-France developed a manual titled "Do you speak Touriste?" They are distributing about 30,000 copies to those employed in the tourism industry, or who interact with visitors from around the world day in and out, such as taxi drivers, sales people, and hotel managers. All those tied to tourism and hospitality now can leaf through a pamphlet that briefs them on how to interact with foreign tourists to provide courteous service, offer a better overall experience, and, in turn, encourage spending.
The manual details 11 demographics and nationalities from around the globe: Americans, Belgians, Brazilians, English, Chinese, Dutch, French (non-Parisians), Germans, Italians, Japanese, and Spanish. In addition to key phrases in each language, the travelers' profile is dutifully detailed for each country highlighted, from what type of service they expect, their dining schedules, preferred modes of transport, and how much they spend.
Because it objectively decodes cultural norms and habits from around the world, however, "Do you speak Touriste?" makes a well researched and entertaining read for those outside Paris' tourism industry, as well. Below are some of the manual's most interesting and telling highlights. For example, Brazilians are "readily tactile" and Americans want to be reassured about prices.
Americans are sticklers for service, and quick service at that, but interactions need not be stilted: "Direct and easy" works well with them. Personalized service and advice should be offered at "EVERY" step of the stay. Have the Wi-Fi information at the ready, because they are "technophiles" who cling to their smartphones and tablets. Also, they need to know with certainty how much something costs.
Belgians know Paris and are in and out of the city often, averaging about 2.5 nights per trip. Because they are familiar with the city and likely can skip marquee attractions, they want au courant information about what to do there, such as events and exhibits. They prefer a "simpler" and "less poetic" Paris and often seek out budget digs.
On one end of the spectrum there are Belgians, and on the other there are Brazilians. Brazilians are after the totally romanticized Parisian experience when they are in town. (This is, after all, a culture so romantic it has a word, cafune, which means "tenderly running your fingers through your lover's hair.") Brazilians want the red carpet rolled out with a stay at the nicest hotel (and they stay about 6.6 nights) and taxis everywhere they go. They are a warm and friendly people, and it is not odd for them to be touchy — as in to reach out and touch — those they are conversing with.
The English are bona fide lovers of French gastronomy. They want to dine at the most authentic and traditional restaurants and are after that coveted reservation at the best local restaurant. As such, they like personalized recommendations. The night's not over after dinner, though; they also are looking to go out and have a good time. Feel free to address them by their first name.
The Chinese are in Paris with a clear priority, and that's shopping. They will spend full days in and out of the city's most expensive stores and return to their hotels with bags upon bags from top luxury brands. They also want to find out about the best places to shop beyond the known, upscale French brands and are looking for refined dining with high-quality food and wine.
The Dutch are "pragmatic tourists." They are no strangers to Paris and prefer independent travel experiences, but they still expect attentive service. They often refer to guides, but apparently prefer to have them in digital form.
The non-Parisian French tend to buy into the same stereotype of big-city Parisians as haughty, and Paris' Chamber of Commerce and Industry finds they also need to be catered to. "The French do not want to be seen as tourists." Sated on French food from home, they prefer restaurants with global cuisine. They like to be independent visitors and explore the city's cultural offerings, but have the perception that the city is a bit crazy and inconvenient.
The Germans prefer to be greeted with a handshake. They want, and to some degree expect, to have materials available in their language, as well as to interact with staff fluent in German. They also have romantic visions of Paris, but prize quality of service, precise information, cleanliness, and a good value.
This one bucks the passionate Italian stereotype, but avoid going in for a kiss: A handshake will do. Italians view Paris as a Mecca for luxury and fashion, but a number travel with families and appreciate a good value, fun excursions, and recommendations for family activities. Looking for a tip? They notice — and like — special attention paid to their children.
The Japanese are respectful people, "discreet" even, and bows are the best way to say hello. Just because they do not voice complaints outright does not mean they are necessarily pleased; criticism of a negative experience will come once they return to Japan. They value cleanliness, accurate information, and comfort. They also feel (figuratively) a bit lost in the city and appreciate extra guidance.
The Spanish often take family trips to Paris, so they are seeking recommendations for outings and activities to please the whole lot. With kids in tow they also are looking to save, so suggestions for free fun are in line with what they want. The Spanish also expect attentive, sympathetic service.