France, the world’s leading tourist destination

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Notre Dame, Paris

83 million tourists, 7% of French GDP

France is the world’s top tourist destination, with 83 million foreign tourists. So it remains the global leader, with the dynamic tourism sector boasting a surplus and rapidly transforming under the combined effect of a new, emerging clientele and a broader range of things on offer to international tourists.

Indeed, the sector is radically changing, with a new clientele arriving. Today, Europeans and Asians account for the growing number of foreign tourists in France. Germans make up the greatest number of foreign tourists in France, ahead of the British. Tourists from the first countries to be hit by the economic crisis, such as Ireland, Portugal and Greece, are also returning to France for their holidays.

The Chinese account for the highest proportion of Asians choosing France for their holidays (1.5 million). Meanwhile, the influx of Brazilians and Russians is greatly increasing.

Tourism makes an essential contribution to France’s foreign trade. Since 1999, it has accounted for the main balance of payments surplus. The tourist trade has shown a marked progression, achieving a balance of nearly €13 billion in 2012, as compared to €7.5 billion in 2011. Longer stays and more nights spent in commercial accommodation have led to increased spending by foreign tourists in France, amounting to a total of €35.8 billion.

France’s tourist trump cards

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Mont Saint-Michel

France has a great deal to offer tourists, ranging from its geography (coastline, town, countryside, mountains) to its attractions and facilities (accommodation, activities, catering). This enables it to develop many dynamic sectors:

  • With 55 million skier days sold, France is the world’s top skiing destination
  • Business tourism is also a crucial sector for France, with 6,081 events organized in 2011.
  • France is positioning itself as a cultural destination, with many international events being hosted there (Marseille Provence 2013, Lille3000), many museums opening (Pompidou Metz, Louvre Lens, Fondation Maeght, the MuCEM in Marseille in June), as well as the new cultural tour A journey to Nantes. Major events generate spin-offs in terms of the economy, society, public relations and regional development. By combining French know-how and individual expertise, it is vital for an effective policy to be created which makes it possible to attract the regular events which countries take turns to host throughout the world, develop the existing events and create new ones. The Comité France Evénements, supported by Atout France, is working on developing, as a matter of priority, a marketing campaign to attract new partners, international benchmarking and criteria for branding major events.
  • Wine tourism is one of the most dynamic industries. 24 million people visit the wine regions.
  • Destinations such as Paris, the Côte d’Azur and Mont-Saint-Michel are veritable showcases for the richness, quality and diversity of what France has to offer. But more and more destinations have really structured what they have to offer to meet the expectations of international visitors. People now visit the whole of French territory.
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Mont-Blanc, sommet culminant d’Europe : vue depuis l’Aiguille du Midi (Haute-Savoie, région Rhône-Alpes).

Last modified on 17/10/2013

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