I’ve been going to Paris for over twenty years and I love the place. But now I have some different memories, thanks to a recent Hounslow Chamber of Commerce trade mission, which I was invited to attend as CEO of 2k Tiger and of The PropGolf Club. The trade mission had as its destination Issy-les Moulineaux in the Hauts-de-Seine département of south-west Paris, a city of nearly 70,000 inhabitants. The trip was organised to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Issy’s twinning with Hounslow and was hosted by the Issy Tourist Office in conjunction with the Chambers.
The guests included small businesses representing sectors such as tourism, sustainability, and sport – the latter represented by me. The Hounslow Chamber was represented by Alan Rides, CEO, and Sally Smith, Chief Operating Officer, who run the Chamber with great passion, skill, and a highly proactive approach, developing connections between businesses large and small in West London. Their enterprising attitude has seen the Chamber expand to become the West London Chambers of Commerce, so that it now encompasses Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham, and Hounslow.
Issy has 2000 years of history and is proud of its heritage, including being home to pioneers of aviation in the early twentieth century. Over the last 60 years, however, the city has devoted itself to a strategy of innovation, so that today digital and high-tech businesses are the backbone of the Issy economy.
The Tourist Office team treated us to a whole range of events and experiences that ensured we will never forget the trip (or indeed the experience of eating frogs’ legs). During our visit, we visited some entrepreneurial businesses in Issy, which contribute in no small measure to the city’s success in the tourism sector. These included visits to Barge 166, a floating cognac cellar; a replica English village; La Cité des Sports, a state-of-the art sports stadium; Michel et Augustin, a biscuit and patisserie brand; and Musée Français de la Carte á Jouer, a playing card museum. One of the highlights was an evening cruise along the Seine, featuring a close-up view of the Eiffel Tower. The Issy region has everything – culture and the arts, a world-class business park, an eco-district, fine restaurants and hotels, and a warm, friendly welcome for visitors. We saw how Issy is highly focussed on sustainability and technology, and the members of this mission felt that we could learn a few things from our friends in France, as well as sharing some of the activities and concerns we have in our communities – from climate change strategy to cultural heritage and sport.
As a result of our visit, we can now confidently connect our West London contacts with people in Issy-les-Moulineaux, knowing that Issy will look after their English guests extremely well, and that business links will be strengthened. The West London Chambers of Commerce Festival of Business is being held in February and we look forward to welcoming the Issy team there. We also look forward to a return visit to see our friends in Issy-les-Molineaux, justifiably proud of its motto as ‘an innovative city where life is good’.