Meeting at the Crossroads

ASTA heads to Lyon for its IDE conference.

By: By Terra Judge

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Old Lyon
Lyon is the crossroads to all European cities,” reads the brochure of ASTA’s 2008 International Destination Expo (IDE), scheduled for April 12-16. This apt description of France’s third-largest city not only refers to the destination’s central position in Europe, but is also a message to agents: Attend the IDE in Lyon and discover how to sell Europe’s hot niche markets. Lyon itself also offers some of the country’s most beautiful scenery, functional infrastructure and a multitude of activities.

The mid-sized city is ideal for those looking to experience France without the brusque congestion of Paris, but with more offerings than a small country town. An assortment of historical and modern hotels, top-rated restaurants and activities keep the city both authentic and freshly modern. Lyon’s spacious convention center, site of the IDE, opened in 1995 and has recently added a new section to the building that will house ASTA’s events. Located on the Rhone River, the complex includes hotels, restaurants and, of course, meeting space. For agents wishing to stay within walking distance of the IDE, the Hilton Lyon and Hotel de la Cite Concorde de Lyon are good choices.

One of the most memorable qualities of Lyon is the friendliness of its inhabitants. Upon arrival at the train station, I encountered some difficulty locating my hotel. Expecting a dismissive nod, I approached passersby with a request for directions and received warm smiles, perfect English and guidance to my hotel. This pleasant openness extended to the tourism industry as well the service in the city’s hotels and Michelin-rated restaurants couldn’t have been more kind, courteous and professional.


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The Lyon Convention Center will be the site
of the next International Destination Expo.
A variety of hotel accommodations are available in the region, ranging from castles (Chateau Bagnoles) to converted monasteries in Old Lyon (Cour des Loges). ASTA has blocked rooms for attending agents at an assortment of properties, including convention center locations, business-friendly hotels and boutique properties with stunning views. The Sofitel Lyon is near Old Lyon and overlooks the Rhone, while the pretty Villa Florentine overlooks the city and offers 28 rooms and eight suites. The Radisson SAS Hotel Lyon also offers views of the city and is conveniently located near the train station.

And of course a visit to France would not be complete without fine dining, and Lyon offers a delectable assortment of culinary options. The Michelin Guide two-starred Le Bec restaurant is currently one of the trendiest in the city and dishes up everything from sea urchin to roasted hare. Visitors can also opt to dine in one of the traditional bouchons, or small cafes, to sample regional wines.

Wine plays a starring role in many of Lyon’s activities. Wine-tastings and vineyard visits abound in the region, and the nearby Beaujolais region has an excellent wine museum dedicated to the production and marketing of France’s well-known spirit.

The old town of Lyon is also a must-see, including the historic traboules, or covered passageways, that link the city’s tiny streets.

Also worth a visit is the Institut Lumiere Museum of Cinema, displaying the inventions of the Lumiere brothers in their converted three-story homes. Agents will be able to take time to experience these things, and more, in addition to the IDE.

“The sightseeing tours available to agents at IDE will provide a more complete understanding of Lyon’s culture and history,” said Cheryl Hudak, CTC, ASTA president and CEO. “Whether agents tour the city from the water, walk down its ancient traboules or take an illuminated tour at night, agents will see how remarkable Lyon really is.”

Available tours include itineraries such as the Tour on the French Riviera, One-Day Wine & Chocolate, Lyon World Heritage Tour, Lyon Renaissance District and its Traboules and Culinary Sessions.

Agents attending the IDE will not only be exposed to Lyon, but will have the opportunity to participate in certification seminars, product seminars and trade shows in order to “master today’s prevailing niche markets to sell more European travel,” according to ASTA.

Informational sessions on selling these markets in France and Europe include topics such as river cruises, Western European honeymoons, wine- and gastronomy-themed travel, the soft-adventure market, rail travel and packaging multi-city trips.

Registration fees for the IDE are $289 for attendees registering on or before Dec. 21 and $339 on or after Dec. 22.