Eiffel Tower in Paris in a sunny summer day

France Named 2023’s Top Destination in International Arrivals


The latest flight booking data from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and ForwardKeys reveals that France is set to retain its position as the world’s most popular destination for international arrivals this year. This news underscores France’s enduring appeal and resilience in the global travel industry.

According to the research, France’s inbound travel is experiencing a significant upswing, with arrivals projected to almost reach the pre-pandemic highs of 2019. This positive trend was highlighted during the Destination France event in Chantilly, attended by President Macron and WTTC President & CEO Julia Simpson. Simpson commended France for its strategic focus on the economic and cultural benefits of Travel & Tourism, which has been instrumental in creating jobs and contributing to the GDP.

The first half of 2024 shows international arrivals in France at 93% of the levels seen in the same period in 2019, solidifying its status as a premier global destination. The surge in international arrivals provides a substantial boost to the sector, which at its peak contributed €220 billion to the national economy and supported 2.7 million jobs.

Julia Simpson, President & CEO of WTTC, praised France’s commitment to Travel & Tourism, highlighting President Macron’s recognition of the sector’s value in terms of the economy, jobs, and France’s global standing. Macron’s support has been pivotal in maintaining France’s top position in the world of travel.

Airlines are responding to this growing demand, with flight capacities set to exceed 2019 levels. Olivier Ponti, Vice President Insights at ForwardKeys, noted that France’s successful hosting of the Rugby World Cup 2023 and the anticipation for the upcoming Olympic Games are key factors in attracting both regional and long-haul markets.

Orly Airport leads the rise in passenger capacity with a 28% increase, reaching nearly eight million. Charles de Gaulle Airport remains the busiest in France, expecting to reach 18.5 million passengers in the first six months of 2024, just 3% below 2019 levels.

Paris continues to be the world’s most powerful city destination, with hotel occupancy rates in the French capital surpassing 2019 levels in over half of the hotel classes in the first half of 2023. Other French cities like Nice are also gaining popularity, with international arrivals expected to reach 94% of pre-pandemic levels.

France is increasingly popular among Spanish and Canadian travelers, with international arrivals exceeding 2019 levels by more than 64% and 54%, respectively. Irish and South Korean visitors are also returning in significant numbers, with increases of 19% and 16% over 2019 levels.

Travelers to France are not just increasing in numbers but also in spending, with a 21% surge in bookings for premium cabins compared to pre-pandemic levels in the first half of the year.

WTTC’s Economic Impact Research (EIR) last year predicted that the French Travel & Tourism sector would grow at an average of 3% annually over the next decade, outpacing the overall economy’s growth. This growth is expected to contribute more than €297 billion to the economy and create over 555,000 jobs by 2033, reinforcing France’s position as a global leader in travel and tourism.

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