the European country is set to attract approximately 93.7 million visitors every year.
France’s undeniable charm ranges from the romantic Parisian streets and the charming coastal towns of Normandy to the prestigious châteaus of Bordeaux, the thrilling slopes of the Alps, and the sophistication of the French Riviera. As per the latest data from GlobalData, it is no surprise that France is set to become the most visited country by 2025, with an estimated 93.7 million international tourists entering the country annually.
Despite Spain surpassing France in 2021, the latter is expected to reclaim its long-held title of the world’s most visited country, with a 12.1 percent compound annual growth in visitation from 2022 to 2025, according to GlobalData. Spain’s visitation growth is projected to reach 89.5 million by 2025.
According to GlobalData’s travel and tourism analyst, Hannah Free, France and Spain will continue to attract a large number of tourists due to their festivals, culture, and gastronomy. Both countries offer unique cultures, cuisines, and atmospheres, and are relatively large with diverse landscapes and coastlines.
France’s broad range of attractions appeals to both first-time and returning visitors, making it a highly sought-after destination. Gail Boisclair from Perfectly Paris notes that France offers something for everyone, including history, urban areas, seaside locations, mountainous regions, beaches, world-renowned cuisine, and renowned wine regions. In essence, France has everything one could want in a destination.
President Emmanuel Macron’s introduction of the Destination France Plan in 2021 aimed to solidify France’s status as a global tourism leader, so the recent news that the country is on track to become the world’s most visited nation comes as no surprise. Atout France, the country’s tourism board, has created a roadmap for the next decade to transform and develop the tourism sector, with a specific goal of becoming the leading sustainable destination by 2030. Atout France Director Anne-Laure Tuncer stated that the French government is making significant investments in innovation, attracting new talents in the hospitality industry, and providing training to provide the best possible welcome to visitors, especially with the Rugby World Cup scheduled for autumn 2023 and the Summer Olympic Games in 2024.
Tuncer notes that the efforts to enhance the tourism infrastructure are already apparent, citing examples such as Le Grand Contrôle hotel located on the grounds of Château de Versailles, the newly opened Anantara Plaza Hotel in Nice, and the eco-friendly accommodations of Les Sources de Cheverny and the Fleur de Loire palace-turned-resort in the Loire Valley.
There have been several well-planned cultural sites that have recently emerged in France. These include the restored 18th-century palace, Hôtel de la Marine in Paris, the prehistoric underground cave, Grotte Cosquer in Marseille, and the epicurean paradise of La Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie et du Vin in Dijon. A new type of destination experience, La Vallée de la Gastronomie, has emerged, with three regions collaborating to provide a gastronomic journey. Even the classic French baguette was recognized by UNESCO last year.
The increasing diversification of travellers’ interests is another reason why France is expected to become the world’s most visited country. “American tourists are now more willing to explore beyond Paris and spend time discovering other regions of France,” Tuncer explains, highlighting the Bordeaux region, Alsace, Burgundy, and the Loire Valley as popular mainland destinations, as well as Martinique and Guadeloupe Islands in the French Caribbean.
The European Commission has recognized two French cities for their smart approach to tourism, naming them European Capitals of Smart Tourism. Lyon, a 2,000-year-old city located at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers, was honoured in 2019 for its completely adaptive public transportation network, museums offering adaptive tours, and overall accessibility. Lyon’s airport is one of the few carbon-neutral airports, and the city’s gastronomic excellence is linked to the Chef Factory school, which produces world-class chefs, and the Bouchons Lyonnais designation.
Last year, Bordeaux was recognized for its innovation in the wine industry and was awarded the title. One example of this is Chateau Paloumey, which is a fully organic vineyard that has been experimenting with new techniques such as growing rows of trees in its vineyards. Additionally, the city is not only known for its wine but also for its sustainability efforts. Bordeaux’s tram system consists of cars that are 98% recyclable, and Les Bassins des Lumières, an old submarine base, has been transformed into the world’s largest projection art museum. The Darwin Ecosystem is a unique community that only allows businesses with a green-first mentality, including a skate park, organic dining hall, bakery, and the world’s first recycling and repair store for sustainable shoe company Veja.
Tourists are continually drawn to France’s unique and unconventional offerings, as the country looks towards the future. Even Air France, the country’s leading airline, is preparing for growth by increasing capacity by 15% over the last five years and 5% in 2022, providing 5.3 million seats between the US and France by 2023, according to Eric Caron, the senior vice president of North America at Air France. The airline is also expanding its fleet for the US market, having launched new routes in 2022 from Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, and Newark Liberty International. Furthermore, the airline is gearing up for the debut of a new business class cabin from JFK International Airport in New York City later this month.
As France strives to become the top destination for sustainable travel, the increase in accessibility will aid in its growth. France not only invites tourists but also attracts them mindfully. According to Tuncer, the aim is to make French tourism a sector that advocates excellence, growth, and employment while embracing a more qualitative, sustainable, and resilient model. This model aligns with the evolving expectations of both French and international clients, especially regarding ecological transition.