France expects 50 million foreign tourists this summer – but they’re not going to Paris

France expects 50 million foreign tourists this summer - but they're not going to Paris
Tourists and visitors in Mont-Saint-Michel, France. Photo: Sameer Al-Doumy / AFP
Visitors from abroad are returning to France but numbers remain well down on the pre-pandemic years, when the country was the world’s top tourist destination.

Some 50million foreign tourists most of them from within the EU are expected to visit France this summer, Secretary of State for Tourism Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne told the Journal du Dimanche.

“This year, we hope to welcome 50million foreign tourists, [compared to] 35million last year, and 90million in 2019. The summer is therefore hopeful,” Lemoyne said. “A local European clientele is there: Germans, Dutch, Belgians…”

But he admitted holidaymakers from further afield, such as USA or China, are understandably staying away this year, while visitors from Britain are being put off by the UK’s quarantine rules regarding France.

And that is hurting Paris, in particular. “A few Americans have been coming back since June, but we won’t see Asian tourists again until 2022. And Paris is still suffering from a lack of business tourism,” Lemoyne said.

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The good news for the capital is that “as many business events are planned for September-December 2021 as in 2019. The downside is that event professionals are forecasting a 50 percent drop in rented stand space,” he added.

Mediterranean resorts are, however, seeing a rise in visitors from overseas including from outside the EU, despite different Covid-19 restrictions on travel from country to country. Hotels in Nice reported an increase of 10 percentage points in occupancy compared to 2020 in July.

According to official figures, room occupancy rate, averaged 69 percent over the first 25 days of July, rising to 80 percent at weekends — higher than forecasts made by regional tourism officials at CRT Côte d’Azur France — but still 16 percent lower than in 2019.

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According to the CRT, “demand from the Middle East and Southern Europe is the one that rebounds the most strongly with a volume doubled compared to summer 2020”. 

The trend is also positive for Western Europe and North America (up 20 percent year-on-year), and positive for Northern Europe (+ 7 percent). But visitors from elsewhere, notably, Oceania, Latin America and Russia were down on previous years, the association said.

Meanwhile, French holidaymakers are again planning holidays on home soil. “In 2020, 94 percent of French people who went on holiday chose France,” Lemoyne said. “This year, [that figure is already at] 80 percent. 

“And with the arrival of the fourth wave … many are choosing to stay in France. [The final figure] will probably be around 85 percent,” he added.

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French tourists are heading to the mountains, figures show. The occupancy rate of tourist beds in  the Pyrenees and Alps has increased by an average of +9 percent compared to 2020.

“The occupancy rate has increased by an average of +9% in all the massifs compared to last year [in the past month]”, according to the specialist firm G2A, commissioned by the National Association of Mountain Resort Mayors (ANMSM).

“Despite the gloomy weather, which limited last-minute bookings, the resorts recorded an increase in visitor numbers for the second year running,” notes Jean-Luc Boch, president of the ANMSM and mayor of La Plagne-Tarentaise (Savoie), in a press release.

“The mountains in summer, with their many assets, are becoming a must-see destination.”

In the last week of July, which is just ending, the occupancy rate of beds is around 62% according to G2A. In 2020, the average occupancy rate for the summer was around 30 percent.

But the figures come with a warning. “In a context that is becoming more complex for tourism with the progression of variants, a still limited vaccination coverage and the implementation of the health pass, the prospects for August are, to date, more uncertain,” Boch said.


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  1. Nice seems to be packed with visitors, and most sound to me they’re French. Passing through Nice airport today I heard no English bing spoken, apart from the announcements.
    Only a simple anecdote but as a regular it certainly struck me; similar observation at Orly.
    Has anyone else noticed this ?

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