Voyageurs du Monde made me dream when I imagined myself working in tourism when I was younger. My level of English always brought me back to reality. Nevertheless, I have always kept this beautiful company in mind. So when I launched this “5 questions to…” column, I immediately thought of Jean-François Rial, its CEO. What’s more, since March 2021 he has been President of the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau. I am therefore more than honoured that he took the time out of his busy schedule to answer and share his vision of tourism with us!
Can you introduce yourself and tell us what travel means to you?
Jean-François Rial, 57 years old, child of a teacher who is a humanist and a human rights activist, I am an entrepreneur with multiple activities. Businesses or NGOs. As a child of the second left, I believe in liberalism as a creator and redistributor of wealth.
Travelling is a source of learning, wonder and understanding of the culture of others. An exciting and essential activity in my eyes.
What was the trip that made the biggest impression on you? Why or why not?
My crossing of the Sahara in 1991.
First of all because I left Paris by land.
The slow, gradual journey, when you can do it, remains a unique approach. This trip also deeply marked me by the aesthetic shock I experienced: sumptuous landscapes, their variety, the great Algerian South as well as the bowels of the Earth are probably the most beautiful things I have seen in the world. But also the simplicity of the people and their immense wisdom. Indeed, they have to live with the bare minimum because nothing grows or is manufactured in these areas, and they manage all this with an incredible wisdom and talent.
A very great moment, a very great emotion, to the point that I changed my job to become a tour operator…
How do you see post-Covid tourism?
Very simply, with two very distinct phases.
- The first phase will last a few years, with a return to the “everything as it was before” to compensate for the frustrations of the impossibility of travelling.
- Then there will be a growing awareness of ecological issues among citizens and politicians, and tourism will increasingly integrate ecological constraints until it becomes very virtuous and perhaps, I hope, an example for other industries.
What is your next holiday destination?
I am going to surprise you. First of all Paris, where I intend to be a tourist in order to get my bearings as the new president of the Paris Tourist Office, then the Cantal in my mountains!
Abroad, very quickly Italy and Egypt, two of my favourite countries, where I always mix holidays and work.
Do you have a book to recommend that we could put in our suitcase this summer?
I could recommend the Autobiography of a Yogi, by Yogananda. A marvellous book where everyone will find what he wants. A novel, a rare life, a spiritual journey, or all at once.
The photographer credit is Frédéric Stucin.