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Lyon eyes Arab tourists

Emirates’ direct route seen as catalyst for more tourism to the city

Gulf News

Lyon, France: Emirates on December 5 launched direct flights to Lyon – the airline’s third gateway to France and 35th destination in Europe. The French city hopes the UAE and the Middle East would boost its in-coming tourism traffic after direct flights by Emirates Airline from Dubai had started, officials said.

The Lyon metropolitan area, the largest in the Rhone-Alpes region, lies in a strategic location in the natural plain of the Rhone Valley. One of Dubai’s twin cities, Lyon covers 4,787 hectares of land. Together with 56 towns, it is France’s second biggest metropolitan area with 1.28 million inhabitants.

“Although we do not receive a whole lot of Arab tourists from the Gulf, Emirates’ direct flights to Lyon is going to change that,” Lionel Flasseur, Programme Director of Only Lyon, said on the sidelines of his presentations at the 27th floor of the Oxygene Tower – the city’s second tallest tower.

The city of nearly half a million residents caters to 5.5 million tourists annually with 12,000 guest rooms. It plans to add 3,000 more rooms by 2015 to help it serve a larger number of visitors to the city and its vicinity. “Lyon is a city spread between two mountains and through which two rivers merge. It has a rich history that dates back to the Roman era and enriched by the Renaissance,” said Emmanuelle Sysoyev, Head of Press and Public Relations at Only Lyon – the rebranded tourism promotion body for the city of Lyon. “As Unesco World Heritage Site, you would walk through 2000 years of history by taking a stroll through the different neighbourhoods and seeing the different parts of history one after the other from the west to the east as the city has been built gradually.”

The long history of Lyon, which was founded by the Romans in the 1st century B.C. as the capital of the Three Gauls and has continued to play a major role in Europe’s political, cultural and economic development ever since, is vividly illustrated by its urban fabric and the many fine historic buildings from all periods, says Unesco.

“Lyon bears exceptional testimony to the continuity of urban settlement over more than two millennia on a site of great commercial and strategic significance, where cultural traditions from many parts of Europe have come together to create a coherent and vigorous continuing community,” says a Unesco report.

“By virtue of the special way in which it has developed spatially, Lyon illustrates in an exceptional way the progress and evolution of architectural design and town planning over many centuries.”

He said his organisation has plans to run promotions to attract Arab tourists to Lyon as there are a small number of Muslim population from North African countries. Lyon also has a mosque.