IN NUMBERS: How important are American tourists to France?

The news that American tourists may not be allowed back to France once the EU begins opening its borders on July 1st will have come as a blow to many travellers - but what does it mean for France's tourism industry?

IN NUMBERS: How important are American tourists to France?
Will American tourists be back in France soon? Photo: AFP

All non-essential travel into France from outside Europe has been banned during the coronavirus pandemic, but from July 1st the European Commission is looking at a phased reopening of the borders for non-European travel.

But the Commission will be taking into account each country's health situation and a leaked early draft of the country list suggests that the USA – which is still reporting high numbers of cases – will remain on the banned list while travellers from countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand will be allowed in.

The EU's plan is only a recommendation and the final decision rests with each country, which means that France has a difficult balance to strike between health concerns and the needs of its tourist industry.

Here's a look at the role that American tourists play in France.


Tourism plays a big part in the French economy, with 9.7 percent of GDP coming from tourism of all types. Of that income – 30 percent comes from international visitors and 70 percent from domestic tourism. Staycations are a big thing in France, with many French people opting to spend their summers by the French coastline or in the countryside. It is expected that this year this will be even higher than normal with health fears about travel.

2.9 million

Jobs are supported by tourism of all kinds in France.

4.8 million

Million Americans arrived in France in 2019, a 6.3 percent increase on the previous year. In total in 2019, France welcomed 90 million international visitors – 79 percent of whom were Europeans – making it a record year for visitors, despite fears that 'yellow vest' protests would lead to tourists staying away.


France is the second most popular European destination for Americans, just pipped to the post by Italy.


Département number 75 – more usually known as Paris – is the number one destination for American visitors but the stunning coastline of the Côte d'Azur is also popular as are the cities of Bordeaux and Lyon.


For many Americans a short trip is not enough and latest data from French national statistics body INSEE shows 31,000 Americans registered for permanent residency in France. The real number of Americans living here is much higher, however – probably nearer 100,000 including students, posted workers and people on extended stays.


Americans are the third biggest international tourist group in France after visitors from the EU (which for this data still includes the UK) and Switzerland.


The average budget for an American on a trip to Europe is $1,978 (€1,749) of which 27 percent is for accommodation (hotels in 63 percent of cases), 20 percent for the flight, and 17 percent for food and beverages.


Member comments

  1. The 20% of the $1978 total used for the flight seems very, very low. That must be a one way fare. I would say that double that amount 40%, would be a more reasonable. This is also true for the food. It may be reasonable for a one-week trip, but, $48 per day does not get you very far with French restaurants.

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Where in France do you still need a face mask?

In France, masks will no longer be required on indoor transport as of Monday, May 16th. Here are rules and recommendations that are still in place:

Where in France do you still need a face mask?

Members of the public in France have been asked to wear face masks for the most part of two years, at times even outside in the street.

Since March 14th, 2022, the facial coverings have no longer been mandatory in most establishments such as shops, and as of Monday, May 16th, it will no longer be mandatory on indoor public transport. 

As of May 16th, you will therefore no longer be required to wear a mask in the following transports:

  • Buses and coaches
  • Subways and streetcars
  • RER and TER
  • TGV and interregional lines
  • Taxis

Regarding airplanes whether or not you must wear a mask is a bit more complicated.

On Wednesday, May 11th, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced that from May 16th onward it would no longer be required to wear a mask in airports and on board aircraft in the European Union. However, Germany has stated that it does not have the intention of lifting its requirement of wearing a mask on its airlines – this would include the Lufthansa airline. Thus, it will be necessary for passengers to still very to rules each airline has in place, which could be the case when travelling to a country that still has indoor mask requirements in place.

EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky specified that vulnerable people should continue to wear masks, and that “a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, to reassure those seated nearby.”

Masks still obligatory in medical settings

However, it will still be mandatory for caregivers, patients and visitors in health care facilities, specifically including hospitals, pharmacies, medical laboratories, retirement homes, and establishments for the disabled. 

For people who are vulnerable either due to their age or their status as immunocompromised, wearing a mask will continue to be recommended, though not required, particularly for enclosed spaces and in large gatherings.

Masks are also still recommended for people who test positive, people who might have come in contact with Covid-19, symptomatic people and healthcare professionals.

Will masks come back?

It is possible. French Health Minister Olivier Véran does not exclude the return of mandatory mask-wearing, should the health situation require it.

What are the other Covid-19 restrictions that remain in place?

The primary restriction that has not changed is the French government’s regulation for testing positive: If you are unvaccinated and test positive, isolation is still required for 10 days, if you are vaccinated, this requirement is seven days. Isolation can be reduced from 10 to 7 days or from 7 to 5 days if a negative covid test is performed, and symptoms are no longer present.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What Covid restrictions remain in place in France?

The French Health Ministry still recommends following sanitary measures such as: wearing a mask in places where it is still mandatory, hand washing, regular ventilation of rooms, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, and using a single-use handkerchief (tissue).