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France looks to boost lucrative tourism sector by developing wine tours, simplifying transport

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PARIS — France wants to develop wine tours in its countryside as part of a series of measures aimed at boosting tourism and retaining the country's position as the top destination in the world.

France's foreign affairs minister, Laurent Fabius, set Thursday a target of 100 million foreign tourists per year by 2020, up from 84 million now.

"Tourism is a national treasure," he told a news conference. "Wine is an important sector to attract foreign customers in our beautiful wine-growing regions that are still under-visited: Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Languedoc, Rhone, Champagne, etc."

PHOTO: FILE - This Oct. 14, 2014 file photo shows the Cathedral of Reims in Reims, France. France wants to boost tourism by developing wine and gastronomy tours in its countryside as part of a series of measures that aim at keeping the country’s position as the top destination in the world. French foreign affairs minister Laurent Fabius set Thursday a target of 100 million foreign tourists per year by 2020 _from 84 million now. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)
FILE - This Oct. 14, 2014 file photo shows the Cathedral of Reims in Reims, France. France wants to boost tourism by developing wine and gastronomy tours in its countryside as part of a series of measures that aim at keeping the country’s position as the top destination in the world. French foreign affairs minister Laurent Fabius set Thursday a target of 100 million foreign tourists per year by 2020 _from 84 million now. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)

Fabius announced the creation of a state-owned investment fund that would, among other things, help finance tourist facilities in vineyard areas.

In the same spirit, the government vowed to boost river and sea cruises and to invest in shore areas, ports, and waterways. It will also support events promoting France's gastronomy.

France plans to extend its 48-hours visa process system — already applied for China— to Turkey, Singapore and Indonesia by the end of the year.

To make life easier for tourists in Paris, authorities want to launch next year a new "city pass" that would give access to both the metro and museums not only in the capital, but also in its surroundings — including the Palace of Versailles and the airports.

It would replace the current complex system of metro tickets with different prices depending on the distance from the city center.

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PHOTO: FILE - This Oct. 7, 2013 file photo shows workers collecting red grapes in the vineyards of the famed Chateau Haut Brion, a Premier Grand Cru des Graves, during the grape harvest season, in Pessac-Leognan, near Bordeaux, southwestern France. France wants to boost tourism by developing wine and gastronomy tours in its countryside as part of a series of measures that aim at keeping the country’s position as the top destination in the world. French foreign affairs minister Laurent Fabius set Thursday a target of 100 million foreign tourists per year by 2020 _from 84 million now. (AP Photo/Bob Edme, File)
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