FRANCE welcomed 84.7million foreign visitors in 2013, meaning it has held on to its title as the world’s most-visited destination, a study has found.
Last year’s figure broke 2012’s 83million and easily beat second- and third-placed United States and Spain, which had 69.8million and 60.7million foreign visitors respectively.
According to the report, France saw a 1.2% increase in European tourists. It was most popular with German and British visitors, though numbers coming from Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy and Spain fell.
After a 7.8% drop in 2012, North American tourists are returning to l’Hexagone, with the number of visitors crossing the Atlantic up 5.8%.
The biggest increase, however, was in the number of Asian visitors, with the number of Chinese tourists up by almost a quarter.
A total 4.5million Asian tourists headed to France last year, up 13 percent on 2012. The Chinese are particularly keen on visiting the country, with 1.7million tourists in 2013, a year-on-year increase of 23.4%.
The number of visitors from China has doubled between 2009 and 2013 - but the number of Japanese tourists fell last year, possibly due to the weakness of the yen against the euro.
The annual study, by the French economy ministry's DGCIS international competitiveness agency and the Banque de France also found that visitors are staying longer, with the average visit now 7.1 nights, an increase from 2012’s 6.9 nights.
But an increasing number are staying with family and friends, or seeking out apartment exchanges rather than heading to hotels, the study concluded.