Surpassing predictions from the beginning of 2023, France attracted about 100 million visitors last year and is bound to surpass the benchmark this year, consolidating its position as the world’s most popular tourist destination.
Latest flight booking data from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and its knowledge partner ForwardKeys, reveals a positive outlook for France’s inbound travel, with arrivals set to almost reach pre-pandemic highs this year. According to the analysis, international arrivals in France for the first half of 2024 are at 93% of the same period in 2019.
Capitalising on the successful hosting of the Rugby World Cup 2023 and on the growing exposure provided by the upcoming Olympic Games, the country is set to be one of most thought-after destinations this year for both regional and long-haul markets.
Olivier Ponti, Vice President Insights at ForwardKeys
The research shows that airlines are ramping up their capacity to match the growing demand from around the world, with the number of seats set to surpass 2019 levels this year. This rise in passenger capacity is led by Orly Airport, with an increase of 28%, reaching nearly eight million. Charles de Gaulle remains the busiest airport in France, to reach 18.5 million in the first six months of 2024, just 3% below 2019 levels.
“France’s commitment to Travel & Tourism is not just reflected in the impressive data, but in the unwavering efforts of the government”, said Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO. “President Macron recognises the real value Travel & Tourism brings to France in terms of the economy, jobs and its standing on the world stage. His support has ensured France remains the world’s most popular destination.”
According to accommodation data from WTTC Knowledge Partner, CoStar, occupancy rates in Paris reached above 2019 level in the first half of 2023 for over half of hotel classes, maintaining the capital’s position as the world’s most powerful tourism city destination. In 2024, other French cities are also going to be popular attractions for foreign visitors. Nice is among the top-performing European cities, with international arrivals expected to reach 94% of pre-pandemic levels.
France as a destination is becoming increasingly popular amongst Spanish and Canadian travellers, with international arrivals exceeding 2019 levels by more than 64% and 54%, respectively. Irish and South Korean travellers are returning to France as well, with visitor numbers up from 2019 levels by 19% and 16%, respectively.
Last year, WTTC’s Economic Impact Research (EIR) revealed that the French Travel & Tourism sector is expected to grow at an average of 3% annually over the next decade, twice the 1.5% annual growth rate of the country’s overall economy, to reach more than €297 billion (9.7% of the total economy).