Macron seeks to put French tourism back on track after Covid

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.

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

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.

READ ALSO Six reasons why France is so popular with tourists

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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Weekend travel warning on French roads as summer getaway continues

The roads will be packed over the weekend France's roads watchdog has warned as tens of thousands of holidaymakers escape the cities and head for coast or countryside. 

Weekend travel warning on French roads as summer getaway continues

The Bison Futé service has classed traffic levels across most of France on Saturday as red – its second highest level, meaning travel on roads out of all major French cities will be “very difficult” – with those in the eastern Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region classed as  “extremely difficult”, the highest level.

But the problems begin earlier, with traffic levels on France’s major arterial routes rising from lunchtime on Friday, as some holidaymakers set off early to avoid the rush.

Image: Bison Futé

Bison Futé advises road users heading away from major cities in France to:

  • leave or cross the Île-de-France before 12noon;
  • avoid the A13 between Paris and Rouen from 5pm to 9pm, and between Rouen and Caen from 3pm to 9pm;
  • avoid the A10 between Orleans and Tours from 4pm to 7pm;
  • avoid the A63 between Bordeaux and Bayonne from 3pm to 7pm;
  • avoid the A7 between Lyon and Orange from 4pm to 10pm, and between Salon-de-Provence and Marseille from 3pm to 8pm;
  • avoid the A8 between Aix-en-Provence and Nice from 12pm to 8pm;
  • avoid the A9 between Montpellier and Narbonne from 4pm to 7pm;
  • avoid the A62 between Bordeaux and Toulouse from 4pm to 8pm;
  • avoid the Mont-Blanc tunnel in the direction of Italy from 1pm to 7pm (waiting time greater than 1 hour).

Meanwhile, those heading back to the cities from popular French holiday resorts should:

  • avoid the A13 between Rouen and Paris from 5pm to 8pm;
  • avoid the A10 between Bordeaux and Poitiers from 1pm to 8pm;
  • avoid the A7 between Orange and Lyon from 3pm to 6pm;
  • avoid the A8 near Aix-en-Provence from 4pm to 9pm;
  • avoid the A62 between Toulouse and Agen from 3pm to 8pm.

On Saturday, the busiest day of the weekend on France’s roads, Bison Fute says motorists heading away from major cities should:

Image: Bison Futé
  • leave or cross Ile-de-France after 4pm;
  • avoid the A13 between Rouen and Caen from 1pm to 3pm;
  • avoid the A11 between Paris and Le Mans from 11am to 1pm;
  • avoid the A10 at the Saint-Arnoult-en-Yvelines toll area from 8am to 12pm, and between Orléans and Bordeaux from 10am to 6pm;
  • avoid the A63 between Bordeaux and Bayonne from 1pm to 5pm, 
  • go through the Fleury toll area on the A6 after 12pm;
  • avoid the A7 between Lyon and Orange from 10am to 3pm and between Salon-de-Provence and Marseille from 1pm to 6pm;
  • avoid the A9 between Orange and Montpellier from 8am to 10am;
  • avoid the A75 between Clermont-Ferrand and Montpellier from 11am to 1pm;
  • avoid the A62 between Agen and Toulouse from 11am to 5pm;
  • avoid the Mont-Blanc tunnel in the direction of Italy from 10am to 1pm (waiting time greater than 1 hour);

Those heading the other way on Saturday should:

  • return to or cross Ile-de-France before 2pm;
  • avoid the A10 motorway, between Bordeaux and Poitiers, from 1pm to 3pm;
  • avoid the A7 motorway, between Marseille and Salon-de-Provence, from 9am to 3pm and between Orange and Lyon, from 12pm to 3pm;
  • avoid the A8 motorway, between Nice and Aix-en-Provence, from 10am to 2pm;
  • avoid the A9 motorway, between Montpellier and Orange, from 11am to 1pm.
  • Travel becomes much easy on French roads on Sunday, Bison Fute said.
Image: Bison Futé

But it has still issued the following advice for those travelling to holiday destinations

  • avoid the A10 between Poitiers and Bordeaux from 3pm to 5pm;
  • avoid the A63 between Bordeaux and Bayonne from 5pm to 8pm;
  • avoid the A7 between Lyon and Orange from 12pm to 4pm.

Transport Minister Clément Beaune reminded holidaymakers that motorway operators were offering 10 percent reductions in the price of tolls holders of holiday vouchers for the whole of the summer holiday period.