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Tourism in France surges after pandemic

Tourism in France has nearly reached pre-pandemic levels, with the Easter weekend marking a turning point for the industry.

In Paris and the French Riveria — two of France’s most popular regions — there were 20% more tourists compared to 2019 between 15-18 April, Jean-François Rial, president of the Paris Tourist Office (OTCP), said on Wednesday.

“The figures are very good,” he added.

Rial pointed out on BFM Business that the Easter weekend marked a turning point for France’s tourism industry, with hotels in the capital reaching 82% capacity.

The Eiffel Tower also recorded 22,000 visitors per day, very close to its maximum capacity.

Rial noted this strong performance was “in the absence of Russian or Asian” visitors.

Western sanctions over the war in Ukraine are preventing Russians from travelling to the EU, while several countries in Asia are still subject to Covid restrictions.

In 2018, around 900,000 Russians visited France.

The growth in visitor numbers “is all the more interesting as it is based on a return of more local tourism, French and European,” said Frédéric Hocquard, deputy mayor of Paris in charge of tourism.

At the Eiffel Tower, the OTCP noted that a quarter of the visitors were French.

This they said was twice as many as before the pandemic, marking a “renationalization” of the landmark.

Over the Easter weekend, North American tourists were almost as numerous as before Covid-19 at -2%, while Europeans were -8%, according to the OTCP.

“When I’m at home, I miss Paris,” said two Swiss nationals Beat, 69, and Heidi, 66, in front of a souvenir shop at the foot of Notre Dame on Thursday. They came “every year to Paris for 30 years,” before the coronavirus pandemic meant they had to stay put in Switzerland.

The OTCP said “these dynamics should continue”, estimating that visitor numbers would exceed “pre-pandemic levels” later in the year.

Hocquard added he wanted tourism in Paris to be more sustainable and resilient, pointing to the establishment of a limited traffic zone in 2024 and plans to “instal bike parks” and “promote the establishment of hotels in the east of the city”.

France has been the world’s leading tourist destination for more than 30 years.

In 2019, 90 million international tourists visited France, with tourism accounting for 8% of the country’s GDP.

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