Atout France is a GIE (Economic Interest Grouping), heir to a line of organisations that have acted as the French government’s tourism development agency, alongside the Ministry of Tourism.
A quasi-governmental organisation with an ancient lineage
The first organisation, the National Tourist Office, was created in 1910, to promote tourism. It opened an office in London in 1920 (17 offices were opened around the world in the 1920s, two-thirds of them in Europe). The National Tourist Office closed in 1935.
In 1987, the GIE Maison de la France took over. As an economic interest grouping, it included regional institutions, in keeping with the France’s trend toward decentralisation. But it also included businesses, in order to satisfy international demand. The Government expanded its tourism promotion actions in 2005 by creating the public interest grouping ODIT France, which stands for Observation, Development and Tourism Engineering. In 2009, the two organisations merged to form Atout France.
Two main missions: observation and international promotion
Atout France is active in several areas, with a recent update in terms of its purpose. In 2013, two main missions were announced: international promotion and engineering; and two complementary ones: training and classification of accommodation infrastructures (Violier, 2013). Today, Atout France’s website highlights two main goals: one focused on observation, development, and professionalisation, and the other on promoting France internationally. The organisation’s main focus is on international tourism, and communication efforts targeting the domestic market are handled by regional institutions. Atout France’s overall approach is also aimed at enhancing its competitiveness with other countries by providing classification and labelling of tourism-related services.
The organisation has also expanded its reach globally, with 32 offices operating in 29 countries worldwide.
Missions on several scales
The organisation’s website carefully combines a political message of equality among different areas with a selective approach that particularly benefits well-known destinations and brands. In terms of destinations, Atout France champions “global brands” (Ill. 1) that are particularly popular among foreign tourists.
Additionally, Atout France also participates in the implementation of the “Destination France” plan which was announced by the French President in June 2021 and presented by Prime Minister Jean Castex on 20 November 2021. The plan has a budget of 1.9 billion euros and “aims to solidify France’s position as the world’s top tourist destination and make the country the top destination for sustainable tourism, by making French tourism a sector of excellence, growth, and employment, based on a more sustainable and resilient model that aligns with the new expectations of French and international tourists, particularly in terms of the ecological transition” (www.atout-france.fr, viewed on 4 July 2022).
Atout France is therefore a semi-governmental institution. As such, it encompasses the visions of the different Prime Ministers appointed over the years (Violier et al., 2021). In 2014, there was a notable shift when tourism was incorporated into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by then Prime Minister Laurent Fabius. However, some key priorities have remained consistent, such as a focus on “rural tourism” and an emphasis on elite forms of tourism such as heritage and culture, in addition to wine tourism. Despite these constants, the organisation also continues to implement social policies in the sector.
- Atout France’s website: www.atout-france.fr
- Violier Philippe (dir.), 2013, Le tourisme. Un phénomène économique. La Documentation Française, coll. «Les études», n° 5364-5365.
- Violier Philippe, Duhamel Philippe, Gay Jean-Christophe, Mondou Véronique, 2021, Le tourisme en France. 2 volumes, ISTE Editions. Id., Volume 1 : approche globale, 288 p.; Volume 2 : approche régionale, 232 p.