Tourism in France recovers from gilets jaunes drop

Tourism in France has seen a boost in the second part of the year, especially among high-end hotels

Tourism in France has strongly recovered from a difficult start to the year, which saw a drop in visitors at the peak of the gilets jaunes protests, new figures have shown today.

Tourism in France in the second trimestre of 2019 was up 3.5% compared to the same time in 2018, after a 2.6% year-on-year drop seen in the first part of the year, new figures from statistics institute l'Institut National de la Statistique et des Études Économiques (INSEE) have shown.

A good number of this increase is made up of visitors from France (up 3.3%), as well as from foreign visitors (up 3.8%).

This comes after figures from tourism cabinet council Protourisme suggested that visits from some foreign countries had dropped - especially those from the UK, due to the poor exchange rate to the Euro.

The Protourisme figures also suggested that this year's summer heatwave had had negative effects on the usual tourist centres, as people escaped the heat for cooler, less-frequented areas.

Yet, in total, 111.8 million overnight stays were recorded in France in the second trimestre of the year, including 58.3 million in hotels, 30.1 million in campsites, and 23.4 million in other kinds of accommodation. This included short-term rentals, rented holiday homes, and youth hostels.

Foreign visitors accounted for a 2.2% rise in hotel stays, an 8.1% rise in campsite stays, and a 2.3% rise in other tourism accommodation.

Many visitors appear to have money to spend, with figures showing a 6% increase in stays at high-end accommodation, such as four- and five-star hotels. Less high-end options, such as campsites, had 6.3% fewer stays, but even here, those offering more luxurious surroundings did better.

The hotel business was booming everywhere in the second trimestre, the figures suggest, with Île-de-France stays up 2.3%, and those in other urban centres up 3%. Stays in coastal areas were up 2.4%, and up 2.6% in ski stations.

The report said: “Stays increased especially in June, because of the Pentecost weekend [Whitsun, at the end of May], and good weather conditions at the end of the month.”

The results have been welcomed by the industry, which had previously feared knock-on effects from the months of gilets jaunes protests. A report published in July this year said that the unrest had “disrupted growth” and that the hospitality sector had seen losses of “up to €850 million”.

Didier Chenet, member of the national hospitality group le Groupement National des Indépendants de l’Hôtellerie et de la Restauration (GNI Synhorcat), was reported in December 2018 to have called the year “an exception” and said: “We have everything to fear come January and February.”

Figures from INSEE for the first part of the year saw a 4.8% drop in the number of foreign visitors compared to the year before. This ended “more than two years of a continued rise in tourism”, the report had said.

The year 2018 broke records for foreign visitors to France, with almost 90 million visitors - but at the time, the minister for foreign affairs warned the hospitality industry to remain alert.

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