(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Buoyed by an increased inflow of global tourist traffic since Emirates started direct flights from Dubai to Lyon in December, the vibrant French city is seeking to boost flight frequency from the UAE, said Gerard Collomb, mayor of the city.
Collomb, who is leading a delegation comprising 31 French companies, said he had discussed with Emirates authorities the prospects of increasing the flight frequency from five-a-week to daily to help this city of culinary delights build on the new momentum in visitor traffic.
Collomb, on a four-day visit to the UAE, also held talks with Mubadala officials in Abu Dhabi on stepping up cross border investments and expanding economic and trade cooperation.
A Mubadala delegation, which is scheduled to visit France in May, is also expected to visit Lyon, the second largest French city after Paris, accounting for 15 per cent of French exports as well as an equal share in gross domestic product, or GDP.
Collomb, who is also President of Greater Lyon region, said he would like to foster closer investment and economic ties with the UAE. "We have several vital sectors, including pharmaceuticals, chemicals, fashion and design, and water energy, that offer attractive investment opportunities to investors," he said.
The mayor said France supports the Expo 2020 bid by Dubai. "With our expertise and track record in organising several high-profile world events, we are in position to help the Dubai with the organisation of that prestigious event," he said.
The mayor said business traffic to and from Lyon is expected to have a strong tie to the city's banking, pharmaceutical and biotech industries which have helped to make the Rhone-Alps region, of which Lyon is the capital, Europe's sixth-largest economy.
Collomb said Lyon, with a population of 6.2 million, is ranked fourth in Europe for innovation and second in France for patent applications. The region boasts a strong industrial base with 99,900 public and private establishments. "Well-connected to the rest of world, Lyon is seen by investors as the only French city able to compete with Paris. While tourism is a driving force for the city's economy, Lyon remains very competitive as the second French hub for hosting larges meetings, conventions and trade shows," he explained.
Collomb said ever since Lyon was added to Unesco's World Heritage list in 1998, leisure tourism in the region has recorded a steady growth with a well-diversified tourism clientele. Lyon Airport, serving 8.5 million passengers per annum, is Emirates' third point in France after Paris and Nice. The carrier operates five weekly flights to this vibrant economic and tourism centre of southeastern France.
Collomb said since Emirates is connecting Lyon with its global network, more services to Lyon would significantly increase the number of international destinations accessible from Lyon.
Philippe Bernard, CEO of Aroports de Lyon, had said that more Gulf carriers were expected to launch direct flights to the city.
According to Bernard, Qatar Airways and Etihad are in the process of adding Lyon to their network. Already, two Arab carriers, Royal Air Maroc and Air Arabia, operate flights to this city from Morocco.
By Isaac John