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Brits, Americans or Germans - who visits France the most?

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
Brits, Americans or Germans - who visits France the most?
Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

We all know that a lot of tourists come to France each year - in fact the country is the most visited tourist destination in the world - but where do these visitors all come from?

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Every year France welcomes roughly 90 million foreign visitors who come from all over the world to appreciate the famous French art de vivre - or eating, drinking and enjoying cultural heritage and beautiful views.

Tourism makes up around 10 percent of France's GDP and French people themselves are by far the most important tourist group in France - roughly 70 percent of tourist income comes from the French holidaying in other parts of France. The long summer break is a crucial part of France's culture and the majority of French people decamp to the beaches or the mountains for several weeks.

Add to that a large group of sprightly French pensioners (until very recently the French retirement age was 62) making out-of-season visits and you have a big group of domestic tourists.

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But what about the foreigners who love to visit France?

READ ALSO 6 reasons France is so popular with tourists

The most recent data analysed by nationality comes from 2018 - there followed some very disrupted years during the pandemic but locally-gathered data and anecdotal evidence suggests that France has largely returned to its pre-Covid tourist numbers, with the exception of visitors from Asia who have been slower to return.

Here's what the data shows;

The biggest single group are Brits who in 2018 accounted for 14.8 percent of foreign tourists in France, making roughly 13 million trips in the course of a year (some of which may be the same people making multiple trips). Since 2018 travel to France has become more complicated for Brits due to the end of the Brexit transition period.

It's possible this may have led to a drop-off in the number of British tourists, but in 2022 the Port of Dover still reported 60 million passengers a year had passed through (which also includes French people visiting the UK and freight traffic).

Next on the list is Germans who made 12.3 million trips, 13.7 percent of the total. 

They're closely followed by Belgians (and Luxembourgers, since the micro-state with its total population of 640,000 people is included in the Belgian data) at 11.6 million trips or 13 percent of the total.

The numbers drop off after that as we get to Italy, Switzerland and Spain which supplied roughly 7 million visitors each, seven percent of the total.

The Netherlands supplies 4.7 million visitors or 5.3 percent of the total. 

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Eagle-eyed geographers will note that all of those countries apart from the Netherlands are neighbours of France, therefore most people won't be travelling very far to visit.

However the 7th entry on the list involves a longer journey - it's the USA.

Americans represent the largest group of non-Europeans in France with around 4.5 million visitors, or five percent of the total foreign tourists who come to France each year. 

In 2018 China represented 2.4 percent of tourists to France or roughly 2 million visitors. Chinese tourism to France had been on a steady upward trajectory, especially in Paris where the top end of the tourist industry courted big-spending visitors from Asia. However, Asian visitors have been slow to return after the pandemic and their numbers are still significantly down on pre-Covid trends. 

There's also a difference in where visitors go, with Americans much more likely to visit Paris while British, German and Dutch tourists are often drawn to the French countryside.

Didier Arino, president of tourism industry specialists Protourisme, told The Local: "The British are in love with rural France. They idealise the countryside."

In fact, despite their relatively small numbers overall, Americans represent the largest single group of visitors to Paris, followed by the British, Germans and (pre-pandemic) Chinese. 

American visitors are also prized as high spenders - the average American tourist reported spending €400 per day while in Paris, according to a 2022 survey for Visa

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