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France The Country With The Most Tourists In The World

En français

Did you know that France is the most visited country in the world? In 2013, 84.7 million tourists visited France, well ahead of the United States with 69.8 million visitors and Spain with 60.7 million. Apart from its language, France appeals to foreign tourists for a number of different reasons. So what are the strengths of French tourism?

Tourism numbers

According to the World Tourism Organisation, in 2014 there were more than 1.1 billion tourists globally. Europe alone welcomed more than half of them (584 million arrivals)! Leading the European pack is France with more or less 85 million tourists every year. Some visitors only spend a few nights in France (most likely in Paris!) but the average length of stay has increased according to an annual study published by the Direction Générale de la compétitivité, de l'industrie et des services (DGCIS, General Directorate for Competitiveness, Industry and Services) on tourism and France's attractiveness to tourists.

Europeans, in particular the Germans and the British, are the driving force behind the growth of France's foreign tourism. Outside of Europe, North America accounts the highest number of visitors, although Asian tourists, particularly the Chinese (a 23.4% increase compared to 2012), are increasingly visiting France.  

The most popular places in France

For more than 20 years, France has been the leading tourism destination in the world.  There are many reasons, including the diversity of its landscape and the richness of its historical, cultural and artistic heritage.  Tourists are attracted by the Châteaux (Castles) of the Loire Valley, the beaches of the French Riviera, or Corsica.  Moreover, some come to enjoy winter activities in the Alps, for example, or to watch the Tour de France in many regions. Tourists also appreciate French culture: its cuisine is included on the UNESCO World Heritage list; and its wines figure amongst the most famous in the world.

Apart from Paris with its 16 million annual tourists, making it the third most visited city in the world behind London (18.82 million visitors) and Bangkok (18.24 million), France has many other treasures to offer.

Interestingly, the most visited place in France is Disneyland Paris! Some 14.9 million people visit the amusement park every year.  It is followed by must-see cultural icons: the Louvre (9.2 millions), the Château de Versailles (7.5 millions), the Eiffel Tower (6.7 millions), and the Pompidou Centre's Museum of Modern Art (3.7 millions). The nine most visited places in France are either in or around the capital. The most popular tourist destination outside of the Paris region is another amusement park, the Puy du Fou, in the Vendée.

France's plan to boost tourism

Last year, Laurent Fabius, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, set a goal for French tourism: 100 million foreign tourists every year.

To do so, the French Government not only proposes to develop France's strengths but also to address its weak points. It wants more shops to open on Sundays, especially in areas popular with tourists and the main train stations. In the case of transport, the famous Gare du Nord will be renovated by 2017, while the connection to Charles de Gaulle airport (Roissy-Paris connection) will be improved. The Government also plans to make it easier to issue short-stay visas for visitors from many countries.  

Finally, France wishes to organise and finance five centres of excellence with the view to increase the visibility of the types of tourism on offer. They are: food and wine tourism; sport and mountain tourism; ecotourism; tourism focused on French savoir-faire (crafts and luxury goods and services, for example); and urban tourism.

And what about you? Will you be visiting France this year?

Adèle Bouet
For the Alliance Française de Melbourne

Translated from French by Laure-Anne Latinier and Adele Rae,
students in the Master of Interpreting and Translation Studies at Monash University