France maintains its position as world's leading tourist destination

The country was the “only destination in the world to have returned to pre-Covid-19 figures,” said the Elysée

Tourists looking at maps in front of Notre-Dame, Paris
France maintained its global top spot for international visitors in 2023, and 2024 is set to be a bumper year with the Olympic Games and reopening of Notre-Dame
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France has maintained its top spot as the world’s favourite tourist destination, with 100 million international visitors in 2023, newly-revealed figures show.

France “has been the leading world tourist destination for 30 years,” said the Elysée at a press conference on January 9, ahead of the second edition of the Destination France summit, which is taking place today (January 11) at the Château de Chantilly (Oise).

The figures - from a report on 2023, and outlook prediction for 2024 - come from consultancy MKG Consulting, and were published by tourist association Alliance France Tourisme.

Dominique Marcel, president of Alliance France Tourisme, said that the tourist sector in the country had shown remarkable “resilience…despite the events over the past few years: the gilets jaunes, the pandemic, strikes, terrorism, and riots”.

Pre-Covid levels

France was also the “only destination in the world to have returned to pre-Covid-19 figures”, said the Elysée.

Last year was the first time since 2019 that the tourism industry was able to stay open for the entire year without significant pandemic restrictions.

Revenue per room in 2023 increased by 15%, and by 25% compared to 2019. This was mainly due to the popularity of three regions in particular, Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur (up 31.9%), Île-de-France (28.5%) and Auvergne Rhône Alpes (23.9%).

Occupancy in mountain resorts was also high, at more than 90% for most hotels and accommodation blocks in the French Alps.

Read our previous article: Boost in US, Canadian and Asian visitors to France this summer

A big year ahead

This year - 2024 - is also set to be a bumper year for France, with the Olympic Games, the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings, and the reopening of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame.

The industry is justifiably optimistic: At the time of writing - six months before the Paris Games begin - 60% of hotel accommodation and residences in Paris have already been booked, said Vanguélis Panayotis from MKG Consulting.

“This is unprecedented in the history of this sporting event,” he said.

He also predicted that “after a solid rebound after Covid-19, we should see a normalisation phase in activity in 2024 and 2025”.

Read more: SEE: dates of 2024 France holidays, festivals, elections, Olympics...
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‘The standard for hospitality of the future’

However, Mr Marcel said that maintaining the top spot globally requires significant and continued investment in the sector.

“We can’t just rest on our laurels just because the results are good,” he said.

“We absolutely must strengthen the mid-range and family hotel sectors, which are deteriorating, and increase investment in sustainable tourism and in the fight against over-tourism, in transport, security and hospitality.

“We need to take advantage of 2024 to set the standard for the hospitality of the future.”

The industry is currently benefiting from increased investment: In 2021, then-PM Jean Castex launched the ‘Destination France’ plan, which allocated €1.9 billion to help the industry innovate and remain competitive.

The Elysée said that this sum is “still being deployed”. Today’s Destination France summit will bring together investors from France and abroad, plus private and public sector representatives. Members of the public will also be in attendance.

The summit’s aim is to “promote the appeal of the French tourism sector, which accounts for 7.5% of GDP and 2 million direct jobs”, the Elysée said.

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