As locales around the world vie for the attention of Chinese tourists—who happen to be the world’s largest group of outbound travelers—France has slipped slightly this year in its ranking among their favorite international destinations. However, a new cultural program introduced to celebrate Chinese New Year shows that the country is making major efforts to maintain its crown as a favorite locale for Chinese visitors.
The Nuit de Chine is a four-day event beginning on January 27 and concluding on the 31st, the first day of Chinese New Year, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the diplomatic relationship between France and China. Taking place at the Grand Palais, the event is operating “under the patronage” of French president Francois Hollande. However, a stodgy bureaucratic ceremony this is not: the event will feature musical, dance, and acrobatic performances, as well as image, light, and sound shows.
France has been attempting to step up its efforts to court Chinese tourists as competition to attract them heats up across the world. The country has long been a favorite destination for Chinese travelers, but demand to visit has slightly declined over the past year: it dropped down on two 2014 surveys of affluent Chinese travelers’ favorite destinations. On the Hurun Report’s annual survey of ultra-high-net-worth Chinese individuals, it was upended by Australia as their top locale, while a survey of upper-middle-class Chinese travelers by Travelzoo found that it dropped off their top 10 list this year after coming in 8th last year. In addition to reports of Chinese tourists being robbed in Paris, other locations across the world from London to the Maldives, have posed larger competition by dramatically stepping up their efforts to market to Chinese tourists.
As a result, France has undertaken several policies to maintain its crown as a desired destination. A few days ago, the French government announced a fast-track visa program for Chinese visitors as part of the upcoming 50th anniversary celebrations. In addition, the city of Paris announced increased efforts to protect tourists from robberies this summer.
The Nuit de Chine is a strong cultural component of France’s marketing to China, and luxury brands that benefit from Chinese shoppers are fully on board. The sponsors list for the event reads like a catalogue of France’s top luxury brands and retailers, including Kering, Chanel, Dior, Galeries Lafayette, Hermès, Moët Hennessy, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Chaumet.
The event will feature a combination of Chinese and French performers. Pianist Lang Lang, the Phoenix Circus Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe, the Central Ballet of China, and pianist Mu Ye Wu are among the Chinese performers scheduled while artist Yi Zhou will be presenting two 3D animations. The year of the horse celebration on the 31st will also feature an equestrian show, and the event will conclude with a “Franco-Chinese Electro Night.”
This isn’t the first time France has supported Chinese artists. In October, artist Cai Guo-Qiang held a fireworks presentation on the Seine River called One Night Stand (Aventure d’un Soir) for Nuite Blanche, an all-night contemporary art event in Paris.