Tourists still heading to France despite Paris attacks

Tourism to France still increasing despite Paris attacks

PARIS — The overall number of tourists visiting France in 2015 rose marginally compared with the year before to reach an all-time high despite the two deadly attacks in Paris in January and November.

Government figures released Friday show that 84.5 million tourists visited continental France, an increase of 0.9 per cent from 2014. The press office for France’s ministry of foreign affairs said the latest figure “was an absolute record.”

The Nov. 13 attacks in which 130 people died had a negative impact, with a drop of 15 per cent in the numbers of foreign visitors travelling to Paris in the months of November and December. Before that massacre, two shooters had stormed the office of a satirical newspaper in January, killing a dozen people.

After a 1.8 per cent increase over the first three quarters, there was a 3.1 per cent drop at national level in the last quarter.

“The attacks that hit Paris in November have restricted this increase, particularly in the capital,” French foreign affairs minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said. “My goal remains to welcome 100 million foreign tourists every year in France from 2020.”

Paris tourism took a hit in the weeks following the violence. State statistics agency Insee said earlier this year that hotel occupancy in the French capital dropped by 25 per cent in the two weeks that followed the attacks, compared with November 2014. Air France estimated the attacks caused 120 million euros ($130 million) in lost revenue.

But French authorities note that the country remains the world’s leading tourist destination, with hotel stays going up 0.8 per cent across France in 2015.

According to the latest figures, the largest increase was among tourists coming from Asia, whose numbers grew by 22.7 per cent, with Chinese visitors surpassing 2 million. The number of American tourists also increased considerably, by 15.2 per cent to 3.6 million in 2015, “marking a return of these customers to France,” officials said in a statement.

There was a 1.5 per cent drop in European visitors although the number of British tourists crossing the Channel went up 3.3 per cent.