Which parts of France will French holidaymakers head to this summer?

After being confined to their homes for two months during the coronavirus health crisis the French can move around freely again. With travel abroad still complicated for many the French are set to stay at home en masse. So where will they be going?

Which parts of France will French holidaymakers head to this summer?
Photo: AFP

In France, like most countries, les grandes vacances (the big holidays) is an important annual event. Every summer, the French take weeks off work in July or August to head away on holiday.

But this year the coronavirus pandemic jeopardised people's holiday plans by bringing international travel to a standstill for several months.

As a result, the holiday season will be slightly different this year with most opting to holiday in France. Some parts of the country can expect an influx of tourists while other areas will be quieter. 

The stats

France is a favoured summer holiday destination for many people, including the French themselves – 70 percent of French tourism is domestic – but this year more people than usual are opting for staycations, even as Europe has loosened restrictions on international travel.

MAP: Where can you travel to from France?

Travel companies have noted a slump in reservations abroad this year, down from 66 percent usually to 20 percent this summer, according to French media Sud Ouest.

In total, 86 percent of French people will go on holiday in France this year, up from 75 percent in 2019, according to a survey for 13 regional tourism committees.

In addition to favouring domestic holidays over international this year, French are also travelling less than previous years, with local holidays within ones region being the clear winner.

“In other years, 40 percent French holiday makers stayed in their region of residence or in the regions of proximity,” said Didier Arino, Director of the tourism agency Protourism, to AFP, adding, “this year the number has risen to 52 percent.”

The coast

On top of the list of where people be going is the coast – a trend that is not new – with 43 percent saying they are opting for a holiday by the sea, according to the regional tourism survey.

France of course is lucky to have a long coastline stretching from the Channel beaches in the north to the Atlantic in the west and the Mediterranean in the south. 

Brittany and Normandy, both situated on the northwestern coastline, are among the most popular destinations this year, according to Les Echos with the sunnier south coast also in demand as you'd expect.

READ ALSO: The 20 essential maps you need to understand Brittany

The coastal areas of France are easily accessible by train, and the French seem to be opting for alternative means of transport to planes this summer, François Xavier de Bouard, chief of the tourism agency Secrets de Voyage, told French newspaper Ouest-France.

“We also have a lot of requests to rent houses with swimming pools because it makes people feel like they are in an even safer environment,” he said.

France's popular campsites are also expected to be popular this summer with reports that sales of tents have doubled in recent weeks.

The southern island Corsica, which is usually a favoured holiday destination among the French, has seen a plunge in its popularity this year, which could be explained in its still relatively high levels of coronavirus.

The countryside

Second on the list of where the French will be going this year is the countryside.

Twenty-seven percent of the respondents in the regional travel survey said they will be wanting greenery this summer, and the most popular sites are the Loire Valley (west) and Dordogne (southwest).

READ ALSO: 15 beautiful sites to visit in France before the world finds out

Both places are usually holiday favourites among British tourists – the Loire Valley is known for its stunning nature, cycle trails and vineyards and Dordogne for its gastronomy, tranquil beauty and picturesque countryside. 


Third on the list is the mountains, with roughly 12 percent of the respondents in the regional travel survey said this would be their holiday destination this summer.

France is blessed with mountains from the Alps in the south east, the Pyrenees in the south west to the Vosges in the east and the Massif Central in the centre of the country.

“There is a tendency to seek the green and the mountains”, the president of the federation of Gîtes de France told Sud Ouest media, adding that certain areas like the départements Cantal and Lot had seen a surge in popularity.

Both départements are rural areas in the southern part of France, not on the coast but with plenty of mountains to climb for hikers.

READ ALSO: The 12 least touristy parts of France for a peaceful visit this summer

And foreign tourists?

Brits and Americans make up a large chunk of France's foreign tourists, and while travel from the US is looking complicated even impossible this year, many Brits will be tempted to make the journey, even if it might mean having to spend two weeks in quarantine on their return.

Every year, about 13 million British people come to France for their holidays. While the number will plunge this year – Brits too are opting for staycations – some remain determined to go to France this summer.

“I will spend my holidays in France as usual, with or without quarantine, I don't care,” one British woman told French media LCI

READ ALSO Who will be quarantined on arrival in France?

While British holiday makers in France are asked to voluntarily self-isolate for two weeks, they will be subject to a mandatory quarantine when they return to the UK.

However there are hopes among holidaymakers and the tourism industry that the obligatory quarantine will soon be dropped by the British government.

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Will France’s Covid-19 health pass be consigned to the past?

France suspended but did not cancel the Covid pass in March - but the government has suggested it might not return, even with the country in the grip of the virus’s seventh wave

Will France's Covid-19 health pass be consigned to the past?

Cases of Covid-19 in France have risen 57.8 percent in the past week with daily cases topping the 200,000 mark on Tueday.

The virus’s seventh wave has the country in its grip – but it seems the government has no plans to reintroduce vaccine pass measures.

READ ALSO How serious will France’s seventh wave of Covid-19 be?

The vaccine pass –  itself a two-month development of the old health pass which had been required for entry to certain venues such as bars, restaurants and cafes – was suspended on March 14th, as cases of Covid-19 in France fell. But the health emergency law that enforced it was still in effect and allowed it to be reactivated at any time.

That law runs out on July 31st. Now, it seems the pass will not return. Reports in the French press last month claimed that the health ministry was discussing the possibility of re-imposing some form of pass sanitaire, a bill intended to replace the current health emergency laws makes no mention of it. 

The new president of the National Assembly, Yaël Braun-Pivet, confirmed this week that the vaccine pass was not included in the new bill, entitled “health monitoring and security”, which will be submitted to the National Assembly for debate from July 11 and will, if passed, come into law on August 1st – the day after the current law expires.

“[It] is not what is planned in the text of the law that will be submitted to parliament this week,” Braun-Pivet said.

Rather, the bill extends epidemic surveillance and contact case identification systems until March 31st, 2023. 

The second provides for the implementation of border control measures – such as requiring visitors to France to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test – if a so-called variant of concern were to spread rapidly abroad, as confirmed by new government spokesman Olivier Véran. 

Currently, most health rules in place at the height of the pandemic have been relaxed. Masks are only required in French hospitals, health centres and places that have vulnerable residents such as nursing homes. They are also recommended in crowded spaces where it is impossible to practice social distancing.

READ ALSO French public urged to wear face masks again on public transport