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France Tries Reflex Action to Lure Tourists

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NEW YORK Maison de la France will try to bolster tourism with a global campaign, "A warm welcome—that's our commitment."

Advertising, to be developed by Reflex in New York, will address the perception of the nation's inhospitality, which Jean-Philippe Perol, director general of the French Tourist Office's marketing arm, said is unfair. He points to high satisfaction scores in surveys of Americans who have visited France versus low scores from those who have not.

Ads will highlight the quality of a French vacation in terms of lifestyles, fashion, dining and attractions. It also will promote cuisine, events and destinations available at different times of the year. The ad budget is about $6 million, with U.S. spending in the $2 million range.

The effort will include seminars for locals who interact with tourists and push the importance of a warm welcome as part of the "quality of France" program, said Perol. Direct marketing will seek to reach 100 million U.S. consumers. The tourist office will expand distribution of a Maison de la France VIP card, which offers discounts, upgrades and perks on restaurants, hotels and attractions.

Noting there will be 53 million Hispanic Americans by 2008, the effort will break out targeted appeals to that community, including travel agent seminars in Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico, complemented by Spanish-language guides and Roman Catholic history travel packages.

France is the No. 2 European destination for Americans behind the U.K., but lost market share to Italy last year.