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Breaking Travel News interview: François Gaillard, chief executive, OnlyLyon Tourisme

Breaking Travel News interview: François Gaillard, chief executive, OnlyLyon Tourisme

The beautiful city of Lyon is a magnet for those in search of Gallic joie de vivre, romance, culture and gastronomy.

François Gaillard, chief executive of OnlyLyon Tourisme, shares his city’s pragmatic solutions to tackling the challenges set by Covid-19, and its roadmap to get back on track this summer.

Breaking Travel News: With the resumption of international travel thankfully back on the horizon, how do you see the next year mapping out for the tourism sector in Lyon

François Gaillard: We hear a lot about “revenge travel” and this trend is being confirmed by the success of our recovery campaigns. We expect the return of visitors this summer, starting with the French and Europeans.

The international travellers will be back progressively according to the evolution of the situation, the reopening of flights and borders.

Indeed, after a long period of frustration, we believe that people will be willing to travel massively again, to make up for the time they were locked at home or in their country.

We are thus very optimistic for the next months.

BTN: Describe the lockdown experience in Lyon, and how did this compare to the bustle of normal times.


FG: It was obviously a never seen experience!

A drone film was shot during this period, and it is quite amazing to see the river banks, the streets and the main monuments of the city totally empty.

As tourism professionals, these images were quite sad but, on another hand, it was quite poetic too.

We took advantage of this period to work on substantive projects and enhance our collaboration with our partners by organizing webinars.

We learnt how to work in a different way and adapted to the situation.

BTN: What makes Lyon the ideal destination to visit post-pandemic?

FG: Lyon is famous for its quality of life, the visitors appreciate this down-to-earth destination, with lots of parks and gardens, bicycle routes and easily walkable.

People are now looking for this kind of destinations, both authentic and far from the crowd.

We are all in need of social interactions and Lyon is the ideal place to meet locals: there is a very friendly atmosphere in the city, the inhabitants are very welcoming, always happy to meet people from abroad.

In addition to that, Lyon has so much to offer in terms of exclusive experiences and we know that this is something visitors are looking for too.

With 2,000 years of History listed by UNESCO, an incredible offer in terms of gastronomy but also a unique heritage in silk industry, fashion and cinema, Lyon has much to offer.

Last but not least, we have launched a ‘Peace of mind charter’ in which business and tourism professionals in Greater Lyon are committed to looking after visitors in a sustainable way, including safety measures due the pandemic.

We want the visitors to feel safe in the city, from their arrival to their departure.

BTN: Why is collaboration across the global travel industry essential to helping the recovery?

FG: We are involved in many different international networks because we believe that together, we are stronger.

We even created a decade ago an international network for cities about food and gastronomy, called Delice, which we are very proud of.

The tourism industry is an international matter, there is no competition, only collaboration with the other destinations.

This crisis has also highlighted the limits and excesses of the tourism industry, we need work altogether to shape the tourism of tomorrow, moving forward in the right direction for the next generations.

BTN: What trends in travel do you see emerging as the world reopens to travel?

FG: People are looking for exclusive experiences in smaller groups and willing to meet the locals.

We believe that travellers will also be looking for alternative destinations as most of the European capital cities are now suffering from overtourism.

The pandemic has also accelerated the sustainable consciousness of visitors.

Good point for us, we have been involved in developing a more sustainable tourism for several years now and have taken advantage of the lockdown to move forward on this topic.

In 2019, Lyon was elected European Capital of Smart Tourism by the European Commission, along with Helsinki.

BTN: Have you had any positive changes in your own outlook in reaction to the crisis?

FG: As a destination management company, we have learnt to be even more creative, reactive and agile, to work in a different way.

Our relationship with our local partners (hotels, restaurants, services…) has been enhanced by this crisis, we have been very supportive and present for them all the way.

We have also launched unprecedented recovery campaigns (including a massive voting campaign for the World Travel Awards) and it is quite an exciting challenge.

This crisis has also accelerated the deployment of our strategy based on a more sustainable and respectful tourism, in line with the new expectations of travellers.

As the French capital of gastronomy listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Site, Lyon is the ideal destination to experience the French “art de vivre” in excellent conditions.

Therefore we do believe that our city has all the assets to benefit from the post-pandemic resumption of tourism and are more than ever motivated to face the next challenges.

More Information

Find out more about visiting Lyon on the official website.