Friday, 15 August 2014 | MYT 2:50 PM

Flocking to France: 85mil tourists and counting!

Despite a sluggish economy, France pulled in 85 million visitors last year, making it the world’s top tourism draw yet again.

France kept its title as the world’s top tourist destination in 2013, drawing nearly 85 million visitors despite a lacklustre economic situation as Chinese interest intensified and North Americans surged back to the country.

With its Mediterranean beaches and snowy mountain ranges, rich architectural heritage and tourist attractions ranging from Versailles to Euro Disney, France grew even more popular last year, welcoming 2% more visitors than in 2012, according to data released by the Bank of France.

The country that’s famed for the iconic Eiffel Tower kept its top ranking ahead of the US, which drew 69.8 million visitors, and Spain, with 60.7 million. Indeed, the number tourists flocking to France outnumber the population of any European country, including France itself.

Like moths to the flame: The Eiffel Tower (top) and the Louvre Museum in Paris are just two of France's iconic top attractions. 

The tourism figures, which showed the number of Chinese people visiting France had shot up by 23.4%, and tourists from India by 15.7% for a total 4.5 million tourists from Asia, bringing a rare bit of good news in an otherwise grim economic landscape.

France’s unemployment rate is stuck at record highs above 10% and economic growth data for the second-quarter, due to be unveiled on Aug 14, is expected to show a meagre expansion of 0.1%.

Yet tourists chose to spend a total of nearly 600 million nights in France last year, an increase of 4.6% compared to 2012. The average duration of their stays – 7.1 days – was 2.5% longer than the previous year. Government estimates put the contribution of tourism at around 6.5% of GDP.

Cool spots: Children playing in a water fountain park (top) and a woman swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, both in the city of Nice, southeastern France. – Reuters

Visitors from North America – whose numbers fell dramatically during the global financial crisis – continue to flock back, showing 5.8% growth over the year, to 4.2 million. The increase from North America and emerging markets offset a slight drop-off in visits from Spain, Brazil and Japan, which the Bank of France explained as a consequence of economic troubles in those countries.

In late June, President Francois Hollande’s government had considered a sharp increase in the tourist tax to shore up government finances as it struggles to bring down a public deficit to within EU targets. However, the planned hike was scrapped in July after virulent protests from local authorities and hotel managers, who said such an increase could kill demand at the start of the summer tourist season. – Reuters

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle , Travel , Europe , Features , Travel , France , 85 million visitors , top , tourism , tourist , destination , most visited , US , Spain


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