Macron seeks to put French tourism back on track after Covid

France's President Emmanuel Macron smiles while standing at a podium giving a speech at the opening of the Destination France summit
Photo: Geoffroy van der Hasselt / AFP
President Emmanuel Macron has invited major players in the tourism industry to invest in France so that the country remains the world’s leading tourist destination, ahead of the launch of a formal ‘plan to reconquer tourism’ in mid-November.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Sommet Destination France in Paris, which brought together more than 50 national and international tourism business leaders, Macron outlined his plan for future tourism in a post-Covid world, after the number of foreign tourists to France had slumped from 90 million in 2019 to 40 million in 2020.

During the health crisis, the State invested €38 billion of aid in the tourism sector which, before the pandemic, represented 7.4 percent of GDP in 2019 and 9.5 percent of jobs. That same year, 90 million foreign tourists came to France, consolidating its position as the world’s leading tourist destination and generating €170 billion in revenue.

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The post-Covid tourist industry should “think five to 10 years ahead to get tourism back on track and make France the number one destination again,” he said to an audience that included representatives of tourism investors, cruise operators, hoteliers, online tourism platforms, airlines and tourist industry operators. 

“We had €15 billion of investment per year before the crisis, we must aim for €20 billion per year,” he continued. “I need your investments.”

According to figures from French tourism body Atout France, investment in the industry has fallen to about €10 billion per year because of Covid-19.

Discussions at the ‘summit’ will help the formulation of Prime Minister Jean Castex’s plan to reinvigorate France’s tourism industry, announced by the President in June and due out later this month.

In June, Macron directed industry leaders to examine ‘green tourism’ and heritage tourism options, and urged them to back efforts to improve actual and digital infrastructure efforts. In the months that have followed, the government has held numerous consultations with tourism professionals and with local authorities in France.

At the summit opening, Macron also said that France’s health pass had made it possible to “reopen in calmer conditions establishments that had been completely closed”. 

“[The pass sanitaire] is an essential instrument of resilience,” he said.

“Despite the resumption of the epidemic, we can say today that we will continue to hold out. We will adjust the controls, we will perhaps reinforce them at such-and-such a time, but we will get out of this binary logic between complete opening or complete closure.”

During the summit, hotel operator Accor was expected to confirm that it will be an official partner of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, while its ResaEvents subsidiary will be the official hotel reservation centre for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, as well as the Games. Airbnb is going to announce an investment of several million euros to support French heritage. Tripadvisor and Expedia are also expected to make an effort to promote France on their platforms.

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