Parisian Charm for Cash

Paris at night.jpg

While famous for its culture and architecture, Paris isn’t known for having the world’s friendliest citizens. But that may soon be changing, thanks to the worldwide recession.

Parisians have a well-deserved reputation for rudeness to foreigners. Have you ever walked into a Paris shop knowing the clerk speaks English, but insists on speaking French? Or have you noticed that while traveling by train in other countries, stops are announced in the local language and in English, except on French trains, where only French is spoken.

Now along comes the recession, and along with it a 17 percent drop in tourism just since January. So the Paris Tourist Board has made a request to its city businesses and residents, to simply smile. And it has set up stands manned by teams of “smile ambassadors” to welcome people at the city’s’ most popular spots.

Daniel Fasquelle, founder of a French tourism association, says if Parisians want tourism to remain a major economic sector everyone has to get behind it. This includes business owners, city officials and citizens. Fasquelle says this is done by such simple acts as having more patience with sometimes rude American tourists, and not honking at Englishmen lost in northern France.

But a bright smile isn’t the only trick up French sleeves. A string of new luxury hotels is in the works. And a cut to taxes for the restaurant industry is expected to return tourists to the streets of the “city of love”.

It seems Parisians may not love foreigners, but at least they love our money.

(Brian Banmiller is a national Business Correspondent for CBS News Radio, writer and public speaker. The former television business news anchor in San Francisco can be reached at brian@banmilleronbusiness.com .)