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Marseille will be the only French destination for charter flights from Korea

Capitalizing on its new image of one of Europe’s coolest metropolis, Marseille won over competition to welcome a series of charter flights from KALtour, a subsidiary from Korean Air. Airport’s authorities dream now to transform one day this charter chain into scheduled flights…

MARSEILLE – 2013 was a year of success for Marseille, France’s second largest city. Being named Europe Capital City of Culture, Marseille attracted attention from all over the world. Over eight million visitors came to the Southern city in 2013, including 15% of foreigners. The new Museum of European and Mediterranean Culture –MUCEM- an iconic complex of historical and contemporary buildings overlooking Marseille’s Old Port attracted alone some two million visitors.

According to Marseille Provence Airport 1.2 million of foreigners came to the city and over a million people who overnight in Marseille came by plane. And for the first time, Marseille recorded as well over a million cruise passengers.

The travelling public around the world finally has a positive image of Marseille, thanks to a strong partnership between local tourism authorities (District and City), MP 2013 – the authority in charge organising the European Capital City of Culture events-. Marseille Provence Airport also partnered last year with local authorities to target ten priority markets around the world.

Asia inbound is among the targeted markets, especially due to the high popularity of the Provence region among Chinese and especially Japanese travellers. And surprisingly, for the first time, Marseille airport will have a direct flight to Asia during the spring time 2014. “We received last year a delegation of Koreans from the tour operating company Hanjin Travel and its subsidiary KALtour. To our surprise, they chose Marseille Airport as their base to bring Korean travellers for a circuit in Southern France”, indicated Marseille Provence Airport CEO Pierre Regis, during the traditional airport press conference. “It will be a weekly charter flight every Saturday offering a 8-day circuit. It seems very little. But Koreans have only a week holiday”, told Julien Boullay, Marketing and Communication Director at Marseille Provence Airport.

But Marseille Airport is proud to be only one of three destinations in Europe to welcome charter flights. “Only Zagreb in Croatia and Oslo in Norway receive leisure flights from South Korea”, added Julien Boullay. According to Airport CEO Pierre Regis, the series of charter flights could eventually be extended for another month or two.

But hopes are high among Marseille Airport authorities. The new flight could finally open new perspectives to Marseille which one day could have a permanent flight to Asia. “Hanjin is also the main shareholder in Korean Air, Korea’s national carrier. We have to watch out this development. The KALtour charter will only bring Korean travellers. But Seoul is also a perfect gateway towards China and Japan”, added Mr. Regis.

“For now, we must prepare ourselves to provide the best possible service to Koreans this spring time. It will be of utmost importance for the future”.

Meanwhile, Marseille airport also hopes to have soon a daily flight to Istanbul by Turkish Airlines. “Turkish Airlines offers one of the most comprehensive network to Asia out of its Istanbul hub. We should get a fifth weekly frequency this summer season instead of four weekly services last year. Ultimately, a daily and then two daily flights would ideally help us to provide rapid connections all across the Asian continent”, concluded Julien Boullay.

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Luc Citrinot a French national is a freelance journalist and consultant in tourism and air transport with over 20 years experience. Based in Paris and Bangkok, he works for various travel and air transport trade publications in Europe and Asia.