Local breaks, open-air camping, rising hotel prices and the return of (some) international visitors were among the major tourism trends in France last year, new figures show, as 2023 begins with some uncertainty.
Last year was hailed as the ‘return to normal’ for the hospitality sector after two years of chaos due to the pandemic.
Visitor numbers, hotel room occupancy and airport passenger numbers, however, were under 2019 levels. However, the sector still brought in nearly €50billion, the latest report on the tourism economy published by France’s tourist agency Atout France shows.
The major trends included:
Campsites recorded a 7.5% rise in visits compared to 2019.
This was attributed to several factors including people’s desire for nearby, open spaces after lockdown, and lower holiday budgets. The sector is also attracting visitors with higher budgets as campsites and ‘glamping’ venues become more high-end.
Open-air attractions and theme parks
Open-air attractions and theme parks also did well. For example, in Ile-de-France, the Aventure Floréval and Winnoland parks saw visitor numbers rise by 27% and 29% respectively, compared to 2019, figures from the comité régional du tourisme (CRT) show.
In Loir-et-Cher, the Beauval zoo welcomed a record two million visitors in 2022, a rise of 25% compared to 2019.
Theme parks belonging to the Compagnie des Alpes (such as Parc Astérix, and Futuroscope) also saw 10 million visitors; a rise of 6% compared to 2019.
And despite the rising price of tickets, la Compagnie des Alpes said that people were still spending more than normal in the parks’ hotels, shops and restaurants.
Tourists in France were less likely to leave their home region to go on holiday and were also spending fewer nights away, Atout France said. In addition, it found that 44% of people in France did not go on holiday in summer 2022.
It blamed this on the global economic downturn.
Typical Paris sites less popular
Some typical tourist sites in Paris also proved less popular than in previous years, largely due to fewer visitors from Asia. The Louvre saw 20% fewer ticket sales, and Versailles Palace sold 17% fewer.
Elsewhere, Lourdes saw a third fewer pilgrims visit last year than its typical number.
Hotel occupation rates and revenue were also down. Nationwide, revenue was down 4.4% compared to 2019. This may be due to rising hotel bedroom prices, which have risen 14% on average (higher than inflation) due to extra costs of raw materials and energy.
International clients, American and European clients have largely returned to hotels, however, the figures suggest. Yet, business travel has not yet reached 2019 levels, even though it has restarted. In Ile-de-France, professional shows recorded 1.3 million fewer visitors compared to 2019.
Tourism accommodation has recorded high competition from alternatives such as campsites and Airbnbs.
So far, 2023 is looking to be an uncertain year for the sector. Rising costs of energy, raw materials, and even salaries could threaten the survival of smaller, independent hotels.
Recruitment within the hospitality industry is also still proving tough, especially for seasonal jobs.
Paris ranked ‘most powerful tourist city’
It comes as Paris was named the ‘most powerful’ tourism city in the world in a study by British non-profit organisation the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
The city welcomed 34.5 million tourists in total in 2022. Its ‘powerful’ ranking also came partly due to the investments made in the capital due to the forthcoming 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. These included investments in infrastructure and the resources needed to secure the event.
The WTTC also considered the amount of money spent by tourists, whether on hotel rooms, or on tourist activities such as museum visits. In 2022, visitors to the city spent a record €35billion.
Beijing, China, came in second place behind Paris. Two other Chinese cities also came in the top 10: Shanghai in 4th, and Guangzhou in 10th. The WTTC predicts that in the next 10 years, all of the top 10 will be in China.
In a press statement, Julia Simpson, president and general director of the WTTC, said: “Major cities like London, Paris, and New York will remain world powers, but over the course of the next few years, Beijing, Shanghai, and Macao will climb in the list of major urban destinations.”
The US also has three entries in the top 10; Orlando, Las Vegas, and New York. These receive significant income due to theme parks, nightlife and gambling, and food and culture respectively.
The amount of money spent by tourists is not the only factor in the list, however. Tokyo, Mexico, and London also figure on the ranking, partly due to their historical significance and recent appearance in the global media.
Dubai and Doha were also included due to this, partly because of the recent football World Cup.
In contrast, the list does not include cities like Amsterdam, Barcelona, or Singapore, despite their high tourist spending.