The tourist lost near the Place de l'Opéra in Paris asked a newspaper vendor for help. "Where's Starbucks?" she said in halting English.

"No idea," he replied in French with a bad-tempered shrug - even though he knew perfectly well that the nearest Starbucks coffee shop was only 50 metres away.

Today, however, his attitude will be different - or so tourist officials hope.

They are launching the first Paris Tourist Day, when they will encourage residents of the French capital to be polite, welcoming and helpful, at least for 24 hours.

Hundreds of thousands of brochures will be distributed to waiters, taxi drivers and other professionals calling on them to shed their long-standing reputation for arrogance and brusqueness. The Paris Tourist Office has also produced a charter in French and English with what it describes as commitments for Parisians and holidaymakers.

"I will take the time to give information to visitors," it urges the city's residents.

"I will take advantage of my stay to try French products," the charter advises foreigners.

As part of Tourist Day, tourist board staff will be sent to the city's most-visited sites in orange and white T-shirts bearing the slogan "Paris est à vous" (Paris is yours). Their mission is twofold - to persuade tourists that they are welcome and to persuade local people to make them so.

The campaign is the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at rectifying the weakest point of the French, and notably the Parisian, tourist industry: manners.

In a recent international opinion poll, Paris was ranked as the world's third-most-attractive city behind Sydney and London. Respondents praised its architecture, monuments and glamour. But it came 52nd out of 60 for friendliness.

"We have been trying very hard for a number of years to improve the welcome that Parisians offer to visitors," Jean-Claude Lesourd, the chairman of the Paris Tourist Office, told The Times. "And things are getting better. More and more Parisians can answer questions in English, for example. The old stereotype of people only speaking French is no longer true."

He said that officials had made particular efforts with the city's notoriously rude taxi drivers, laying on workshops to teach them subjects that ranged from English to hygiene and how to smile.

"We train them to try to be more friendly and I think big progress has been made," he said. "A lot of them can say a few words in English now, and they are cleaner, too." He added: "I do agree that more needs to be done, however, and that's why we have created Paris Tourist Day."

The stakes are high. With 16 million people staying in the French capital's hotels every year, it is the world's most popular urban tourist destination.

Tourism in Paris is worth more than €14 billion (£10 billion) a year and employs 150,000 people, according to the Tourist Office.

Commitments for the visitor

I will experience the Parisian lifestyle

I will take advantage of my stay to try French products

I will respect the city and use public transport

Commitments for the Parisian

I will take the time to give information to visitors

I will make use of my foreign-language skills to reply to them in their language

I will recommend to visitors things I appreciate about Paris

I am proud of my city, the No 1 tourist destination in the world