After a year on the Promosalons Board of Directors, Agnès Romatet-Espagne, Head of the Business, International Economy and Tourism Promotion Directorate at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development, looks back on her involvement and that of the Ministry in the French trade shows, exhibitions and conferences sector.

What are the roles and missions of your Directorate within the Ministry?

The Business, International Economy and, since the last few months, Tourism Promotion Directorate, which I took over in September 2014, was assigned three missions by Laurent Fabius and later Jean-Marc Ayrault: to develop exports, attractiveness and tourism.

The business of promoting and attracting visitors to French trade fairs, exhibitions and conferences is at the meeting point of these three missions. For us, this subject was immediately established as a priority and the Secretary of State Matthias Fekl understood straightaway how this convergence of interests could enable us to act efficiently and effectively on behalf of this sector.

I would like to add that everything we do for this sector is part of the broader framework of the Ministry’s action, in liaison with the Directorate General for Enterprise at Bercy, to put tourism back on our list of priorities.

For example, the work we have done on air connectivity and on Sunday/evening trading will have positive repercussions for the sector.

To what extent does the MICE sector echo the issues taken up by your department?

For the three reasons I mentioned to you just now, but also because of the economic influence of the MICE sector (boosting the economy by €7.5 billion a year).

Our export development mission ties in perfectly with this sector since the majority of exhibitors at trade shows and exhibitions in France are French companies, and we know from the studies that have been carried out that being present at these events is probably the best way to boost business streams, particularly for first-time exporters.
Furthermore, with respect to the issue of France’s attractiveness, you cannot be a major international city on the European and world map if you are not in a position to host trade shows and exhibitions in optimum conditions.

Finally, as regards the tourism sector, 20% of our foreign visitors come to France to participate in trade fairs and conferences. We must therefore ensure that they take advantage of their time on French soil to spend more, and want to come back for a longer stay with family and friends.

The announcement in November 2015 of the creation of a Steering Committee for the Business Meetings and Events sector by your Ministry and the Ministry of the Economy, Industry and Digital Technology is evidence of the French government’s support for this sector. Can you remind us of this Committee’s objectives and mission?

In March 2015, Emmanuel Macron had proposed that the services industry should be organised in sector committees. This idea was developed by the two Ministries, focusing on the issue of hosting trade shows, exhibitions and conferences in France, which should lead to the creation of the Business Meetings and Events Committee.

The preliminary work, which began in April this year under the direction of Renaud Hamaide, CEO of Comexposium, and which will be completed next month, is being done by three working groups led by my department and the Directorate-General for Enterprise at Bercy.

The first is dedicated to promoting the French events industry internationally, with the objective of improving the customer experience at events in France. The rapporteur is Renaud Hamaide. The second group is dedicated to upgrading the infrastructure, with Olivier Ginon, the Chairman of GL Events, as rapporteur. The third, led by Frédéric Bedin of Hopscotch, is working to improve the competitiveness of the French events industry.

The Committee addresses a number of priority issues, some of which tie in with the work of Promosalons, and it is in this capacity that Olivier Mellerio and Corinne Moreau have been involved, working on issues such as the influence of the French events industry on the world stage, replicating certain events abroad and capturing international events. It is also about improving travel to our country and the way we host visitors and exhibitors when they get here, offering them a complete package, in both the business and tourism sense, to ensure that they have the best possible experience.

Once the hearings are completed, by 10 July at the latest, we will be using this preliminary work as the basis for an industry agreement that we hope to sign in September/October 2016 to formalise the respective commitments.
Our goal is to bring together all industry players so that collectively, with the government and stakeholders, we can identify and control the strategic issues affecting the sector and bring forward appropriate solutions.

You have been sitting on the Board of Directors of Promosalons for a year. What areas have you been cooperating on with Promosalons and how would you sum up this initial phase?

First of all, I’d like to thank the chairman Olivier Mellerio and the Board members for accepting the Foreign Ministry onto the Promosalons Board, as well as Corinne Moreau for having supported my candidacy.

We felt that the Promosalons network, given its independence and having its own operating rules, had every reason to be much more closely associated with the activities of our ambassadors and all the services of the State abroad, and vice versa.
We have also worked on priority topics, namely security at trade shows in France following the attacks, and issues of competitiveness against the benchmark of our main competitors’ offers.

Some operations were organised jointly with Promosalons, and I pay tribute to their responsiveness in these circumstances, coming immediately after the Paris attacks in November 2015. The objective was to invite certain opinion leaders and foreign journalists to France so that they could gauge for themselves the level of comfort, security and trust put in place for international participants at French trade shows (see Focus in Newsletter No. 55).

I think it’s very important that Promosalons continue with its collective promotional activities in target countries. Whenever possible – and it has already happened in about ten countries – we have enlisted the help of our ambassadors to either host these special operations or speak at them, thereby increasing their impact.
Also at Board meetings we share information on broader topics (e.g. the Grand Paris initiative) that could be useful to Promosalons and enhance the network’s promotional campaigns abroad.

To this end, we reminded the entire diplomatic network of Promosalons’ role and the many trade shows it represents. Underlining the economic challenges that the sector faces, we urged them to meet with Promosalons representatives to discuss the resources that the embassy could place at their disposal, with the finance departments and, where possible, with Business France or Atout France for which the Foreign Ministry is jointly responsible.

The trade shows and exhibitions sector operates in an increasingly competitive environment and France cannot afford the luxury of time. So I am anxious to see the broad outlines of the industry agreement take shape, and you can rely on us to keep our commitments – systematically, methodically and meticulously.