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French tourism sector largely back on track after pandemic years

Train travel and campsites have been popular this year, while hotel bookings and flights are still slightly down on pre-pandemic levels

Biarritz in the southwest of France is popular with tourists during the summer Pic: Sibil Photos / Shutterstock

With France’s traditional rentrée arriving next week – a name for the day when children go back to school after the summer and adults typically return to work after several weeks off – the tourism industry has begun recapping its summer business. 

In most sectors, including the hostel business, camp sites, transport companies, etc. the numbers show that the industry is almost back to normal after two years badly affected by the Covid pandemic. 

Campsites

The number of overnight stays in campsites is up 17% this summer compared to 2021. 

Nicolas Dayot, president of the Fédération Nationale de l'Hôtellerie de Plein Air, said the reason was a return of foreign tourists. 

“In particular the Germans, the Dutch and the British, who now represent 30% of guests, compared to 20% last year,” he told Ouest-France. 

It is expected that by the end of the summer more than 130 million nights in campsites will have been reserved, more than the record set in 2019. 

Mr Dayor said a contributing factor was the hot weather, which meant stays in tents, mobile homes and chalets increased. 

He said the only downside was that tourists were spending less on other campsite facilities, such as in restaurants or on activities. 

Hotels

The number of hotel bookings in France is just 1.2 percentage points down on 2019 levels, according to consultancy and marketing firm MKG Consulting. 

Laurent Duc, president of the hotel industry branch of the Union des métiers et des industries de l'hôtellerie, said that “July was very good, even if August bookings arrived late”. 

French and foreign tourists have also travelled less far and discovered regions close to where they live," he added. 

The average price of a stay in a hotel is up 22% this year compared to 2019. 

Mr Duc attributed this to energy prices, increased staff salaries and inflation.

Travel agents

The number of travellers going through travel agents is down around 5% compared to 2019, said Jean-Pierre Mas, president of Entreprises du Voyage, which represents travel agents. 

He said, though, that the average package holiday is 20% more expensive due to plane tickets going up, late bookings, longer trips and people deciding to splash out more after two years of disrupted travel plans. 

The most popular destinations for people in France have been the Mediterranean coast, Spain, Greece, Tunisia, Turkey and Morocco. 

Train travel

French rail company SNCF reports a record number of passengers in July and August, with 23 million people travelling on TGVs, Intercités and Ouigo trains. This is 10% more than in 2019. 

If international connections are included, such as Thalys, Eurostar or connections to other neighbouring countries, this figure rises to 28 million passengers. 

Regional and local train journeys are also up 15% compared to 2019. 

Planes

Figures from Eurocontrol show that between July 1 and August 25, French airports recorded 250,000 flights. This is around 10% lower than the 275,000 flights recorded during the same period in 2019. 

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