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French survey picks London over Paris as tourist heaven

Text by Sophie PILGRIM

Latest update : 2010-11-19

London has beaten Paris to the number-one spot as Europe’s most tourist-friendly capital, according to a survey published this week. Hotel standards, inner-city transport, tourist information; London’s got it all. Well, that's what the French say...

Grimy, rainy, rushed-off-its-feet and hideously expensive. That’s what many people think of the city that has just been voted the most tourist-friendly of six European capitals. And to top it off – it beat Paris.

The survey, released by the Paris region’s tourism committee, is compiled from results submitted by 30 mystery tourists. Each of the tourists, aged between 21 and 54 and from around Europe, visited London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Rome or Madrid and rated each city on 116 criteria.
Ironically, the survey was carried out in order to disprove an ever-growing consensus that Paris is far from tourist-friendly. But despite Paris actually scoring well in the ratings, the news was entirely overshadowed by the fact that London had done even better. The "revelation"  that a French committee's survey concluded that London bests Paris as tourist heaven was all too gleefully reported by the British press.
Paris did manage to beat off London in terms of museums, dining, and tourist information at the airport. But with high scores for taxis, inner-city transportation, hotels, bus tours and city-centre tourist information, London garnered enough praise to give it an overall score of 82%, while Paris fell slightly behind with just 79%.
The author of the survey, Jean-Pierre Blat, stressed that half of tourists who visit Paris come back within five years. “Why would people come back to France if they weren’t happy with the level of hospitality?” he told French news Web site Blat blames the poor results on the non-Parisian French participants who evaluated the capital as part of the survey (Paris is a favourite subject of griping for the rest of France). “In reality it’s the French who are the most critical and who peddle a bad image of Paris to foreigners”, he insisted.
Paris does remain the world’s most popular city in terms of visitor numbers. Some 30 million people come to the capital each year. One of them is Jessica Shaefer, a gallery director from New York. She’s visited both Paris and London several times over the past 15 years, and is not convinced by the survey results. “I prefer Paris to London because it’s walkable and bicyclable. Yes, the metro in London is comprehensive, but it’s so deep below ground it’s suffocating", she said. "And as for taxis, the drivers don’t always know where they’re going and they’re very pricey”.
Indeed, it’s not only costly taxis that tourists find off-putting. “The first thing people say when they arrive in London is, ‘it’s so expensive!’” exclaims Shaefer. “It’s strange of the survey not to have taken that into account, as it makes a huge difference”.
Another sure-fire tactic the survey-makers should consider for their next survey is not to include the question “does the employee smile?” as one of their criteria. If they carry on taking that into account, the Parisians are never going to win.
Photo courtesy of Flick user THEfunkyman under the creative commons license.


Date created : 2010-11-19