The French tourist office, Atout France, made its rounds through the U.S. on a planned media tour over the last two weeks. The visit was scheduled before the Paris attacks of Nov. 13, and the tourist office made the decision to carry on with the event despite the violence. Addressing a crowd of journalists at the Andaz West Hollywood, Marion Fourestier, director of communications for Atout France, said that France wanted to send the right message.
“Parisians appreciate the outpouring of support,” said Fourestier. “We want to ensure that our values and well-being are preserved and to live our lives as we choose. Travel broadens our lives and understanding of others.”
In regards to the impact the most recent attacks will have on tourism, she noted that it is too early to provide answers and accurate data.
However, France’s ministry of foreign affairs has referred to a survey by ForwardKeys that indicates travel to the country, at least through the holiday season, is taking a hit – although, on the upside, the number of cancellations has leveled off, which would be a good sign going into 2016.
Rather than dwell on tragedy, Fourestier and her colleagues addressed the crowded room with news of the fun and exciting plans France has for the coming year and focused on a number of cultural openings and events that are sure to draw tourists back, discussing Air France upgrades, boutique hotel openings, the debut of The Ritz-Carlton and Euro 2016 soccer championships.
What's Happening in France
For those looking to head to France next year, there are a number of significant cultural happenings and museum openings to entice visitors.
Alsace will welcome back the Unterlinden Museum in Colmar – home to the remarkable Isenheim Altarpiece. A full reimagining of this museum, the second most-visited regional fine art museum in France, is now underway. Both the former convent and the municipal baths are being redesigned to better present the collections of 12th- to 18th-century art and host special events. A new building is also being constructed to house galleries of modern and contemporary art.
On June 2, the Wine Museum & Cultural Center, now called La Cité du Vin, the first large cultural center based on the theme of wine in Bordeaux, will open its doors. Halfway between a museum and a theme park, La Cité will offer visitors immersive and multi-sensory technologies with which to explore the huge, permanent exhibit about wine cultures throughout the ages. Its opening will coincide with the lively Bordeaux Wine Festival scheduled for June 23 to 26, 2016.
In the summer, the International Center for Cave Art (Centre International d'Art Pariétal), located at the foot of Lascaux Hill, will house a complete copy of the famous Lascaux cave and place a heavy emphasis on bringing it to life through virtual reality technology. There will also be exhibits about Cro-Magnon civilization and cave art from around the world.
World War I history buffs will appreciate the opening of the Verdun Memorial, which preserves one small piece of the blood-stained earth from the war. Displays – large-format projected archival images, background sounds, video, artillery sound effects and more – immerse visitors in an experience of the French-German battlefield. There are also explanations of how the region was transformed and then reconstructed.
A highlight of France’s 2016 cultural offerings will be the reopening of the Franco-American Museum of Blérancourt in the fall after an ambitious expansion that includes a new wing and reorganization to showcase its comprehensive collection of art and documents dedicated to the Franco-American relationship. The museum was founded by Anne Morgan, the daughter of U.S. industrialist, philanthropist and art collector J.P. Morgan. She transformed the Château de Blérancourt, her WWI and post-war headquarters in Picardy, into the Franco-American Museum. After she donated it in 1931 to the French Government, it was declared a national museum.
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