• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Six reasons why France is top tourist destination
Why is France the world's top tourist destination. Photo: Invest in France

Six reasons why France is top tourist destination

The Local · 12 Aug 2014, 13:36

Published: 12 Aug 2014 13:36 GMT+02:00

Some 84.7 million visitors from across the world flocked to France in 2013, far more than any other country in the world, and plans are underway to up the number to above 100 million mark.

But what makes France such an attractive destination for holiday makers year after year? The Local looks at six reasons to explain the country’s tourism appeal. 

But do the figures tell the real story of France's table topping tourism industry? One professional says the ynumbers are misleading and France needs to do to match the success of the United States and Spain.

Six reasons:

1. The City of Light

It almost goes without saying, but the French capital is a huge draw for foreign visitors – over 30 million of them a year in fact, more than any other city in the world. What makes it so popular? Where to start. There’s the city’s romantic image, the stunning architecture, the Louvre museum, the iconic Eifel Tower as well as the simple pleasure of sitting at a café terrace and watching the world go by. European and US visitors have flocked here from all the world for many years, and they keep coming back and in recent years the appeal of Paris has gripped the far east, with mor and more Chinese nationals coming to get a glimpse of the Champs Elysées and its array of boutiques.

And don't forget Disneyland, which is a destination in itself for foreign visitors. With around 15 million visitors each year, the theme park, just to the east of the French capital is Europe's top tourist destinaton.

2. A variety of sun, sea and mountains

Many French people shun international destinations for their summer holidays and instead choose to travel within their own country. Why? Well, as they’ll be keen to tell you, it’s because France has everything, from sandy beaches, to snow covered mountains and vast expanses of countryside.

Simon Dawson, from UK tour operator French Cycling Holidays, agrees. “Different regions have completely different appearances,” he says. “There’s the rolling countryside, great cities like Paris, Lyon, Marseille."

SEE ALSO: Ten beaches in France you need to visit

Basically France offers something for everyone. While the Germans may come for the beaches, the Brits for the countryside the Americans come for the chateaux and the culture.

"The weather is a big factor too. “France tends to have really good weather in the summer, it’s hot, but not baking hot like in Spain or Italy for example,” says Dawson.

3. Strategic location

Part of France’s appeal, however, could just be a sheer coincidence of geography. For example, for UK holidaymakers looking to escape their homelands unreliable summers, France is just a short hop across the Channel, a journey some 12.6 million made in 2013. Travellers from another of France’s neighbours, Germany, made up 13 million visitors to France last year, more than any other country. However, not all these visitors are coming to see France itself.

“Because of France’s position many tourists are forced to pass through the country on their way to other destinations,” explains Didier Arino, president of tourism industry specialists Protourisme. “Between 15 and 20 million of the visitors who come to France are just passing through on their way to Italy or Spain.”

4. Escape to the countryside

Around 80 percent of France is countryside – and most of it stunning and tranquil. Besides Paris, this is the part of France most tourists want to see, says Dawson. “The most popular areas for our customers are the Loire Valley, Provence, the famous beautiful regions of France,” he says.

The countryside is particularly popular with those from the UK, who have a romantacised vision of rural life in France, according to Protourisme's Arino.

“The British are in love with rural France. They idealise the countryside,” he says. The Brits enjoythe contrast of the peaceful "France profonde" compared to the hussle and bussle of the towns and cities many of them live in.

5. Food and wine

France is, of course, inseparable from its famed gastronomical traditions and the chance to dine on French specialities, even the clichéd snails or steak tartare is no doubt a major part of what attracts visitors to the country. France knows this and is keen to protect its status as the world’s food capital, as evidenced by its recent "homemade" food label scheme designed to discourage chefs from using frozen or ready-prepared ingredients.

No proper French meal is complete without a few glasses of ‘vin’ and the country’s vast array of home-produced wines is another draw for tourists. Each year, around 24 million foreign tourists visit Bordeaux, Burgundy and France’s other wine regions.

6. Art , history and culture

France is extremely proud of its long and often tumultuous history, from the French revolution to Napoleon and the two world wars, and historical sites are often on the itinerary for visitors. There’s the famous battle sites of the Somme and the D-Day landings, as well as the stunning chateaux, churches and cathedrals that decorate the landscape.

In fact, France has some 39 sites on Unesco's World Heritage list, putting it fourth in the global rankings. Museums and art galleries are also a major pull for tourists. The Louvre alone, home to the Mona Lisa among around 35,000 other artifacts and artworks, attracts 9.7 million visitors a year, more than any other museum in the world.

The Lonely Planet's destination editor Kate Morgan sums it all up like this: "As a destination for travellers, France virtually has it all. France entices people of all ages with some of the world’s most iconic landmarks, world-class art and architecture, sensational food, stunning beaches, glitzy ski resorts, beautiful countryside and a staggering amount of history."

SEE ALSO: Ten French Unesco sites you won't have heard of

Story continues below…

But do the stats tell the real picture?

Despite being the world’s most visited country, France is hoping to boost its tourism numbers still further. Earlier this year, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius unveiled a plan to increase foreign visitor numbers to more than 100 million a year.

Protourisme's Arino, however is not getting carried away with the figures. For him France needs to focus on persuading the tourists to spend more. While France has the highest number of visitors a year, it is only third in the world when it comes to revenue generated from tourism, he says

“These figures don’t give the whole picture,” he says. “For me France is the third tourist destination in the world, behind the United States and Spain, where the tourism industry in both countries generates more money than in France.

“The only figure that matters is the commercial revenue, not the amount of visitors.

Arino points to the situation of tourists sleeping in their cars as they pass through France on the way to Spain, who are no use to the country economically.

For France to squeeze more money out of visitors Arino says it needs to improve the variety and prices of the accommodation it offers, encourage people to stay longer by giving them a warmer welcome, and make France more competitive in terms of value for money.

Foreign Minister Fabius would agree and has come up with a list of tasks to help improve the welcome for visitors to France.

by Sam Ball

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Which of France's strikes could affect Euro 2016?
Photos: AFP

A series of ongoing strikes in France could continue to affect the country throughout the Euro 2016 tournament, which starts in just two weeks.

Fuel crisis eases as French police unblock depots
Tires on fire in front of an oil depot near the Total refinery of Donges, western France, on Friday. Photo: AFP

After a week of fuel shortages in France, things are improving in time for the weekend.

Opinion - French strikes
'Stop pissing everyone off': French boss to union chief
Philippe Martinez, the head of the CGT union. Photo: AFP

In an open letter to the man attempting to bring France to a standstill, a business owner tells him to stop "living in the past" and stop "pissing everyone off".

Want a '30-hour work week'? Move to Paris (or Lyon)
Lunchtime in Paris? Photo: reynermedia/Flickr

Workers in Paris and Lyon put in the fewest hours out of 71 major cities around the world. Lazy or supremely efficient.

The nations the French love to make fun of the most
Photo: Romain Seignovert

The British are not the French's top target, believe it or not.

What's the story behind French Neighbours' Day?
Families get together in the northern suburbs of Paris on Neighbour's Day. Photo: AFP

Fuel crisis
Renting a car in fuel-starved France? No need to panic
Photo: AFP

While France's fuel concerns have prompted holiday cancellations, car rental companies say travellers have nothing to worry about.

French soldier knifed by men 'angry over Syria bombings'
Photo: AFP

A French soldier was knifed by two men armed who he claimed reproached him for France's military intervention in Syria.

Opinion - Strikes in France
France is heading into a 'summer of discontent'
Photo: AFP

This isn’t 1970s Britain but France in 2016.

'Don't worry, France is far from running out of fuel'
The area around Paris and parts of western France appear to be the worst hit. Image: Essence smartphone app

French petroleum industry chiefs try to calm fears but trade unions have called for protests and strikes to be stepped up.

National
Which of France's strikes could affect Euro 2016?
Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
'You're not welcome': French police chief warns English yobs
How to avoid running out of fuel if you're coming to France
National
It's Neighbours' Day! But what does it all mean?
National
The French fuel crisis for dummies: 27 key questions
National
The trials and tribulations of moving to rural France
National
Five free smartphone apps to help you find petrol in France
National
A complete guide to France's (many) ongoing strikes
Culture
Paris: Street artist makes the Louvre pyramid disappear
Interactive map: Where to find petrol in France
Who is the French union in a 'fight to the death' with the government?
Society
Opinion: Why the French are absolutely right to go on strike
National
Here's why both sides despise France's labour reforms
National
Who is really to blame for the fuel crisis in France?
National
Here are the parts of France hardest hit by the fuel shortages
Travel
It will soon be time to say 'au revoir' to the Paris Metro ticket
Culture
Revealed: The ultimate sex map of France
National
Migrants at Calais camp given dignity in death
International
How good is security at Charles de Gaulle airport?
Culture
How to make a traditional French cassoulet
Culture
IN PICS: Commuter trains in Paris get royal makeover
International
Terror attack 'likeliest cause' of missing EgyptAir plane
International
Who was on board the missing EgyptAir flight from Paris?
2,735
jobs available