French tourism better than before COVID, despite climatic setbacks

PARIS (AP) — Tourism came back strong in France this summer, sending incomes above pre-pandemic levels, according to government estimates released this week.

Crowds filled Paris landmarks and Riviera beaches, thanks in part to an influx of Americans benefiting from the weak euro, but also British and European visitors reveling in the end of pandemic restrictions.

“It’s beautiful to go back to travel,” said Serena Veronese, a tourist from Lake Maggiore in Italy who soaks up the view of the Eiffel Tower. She and her husband work for an airline and “have been through a lot” as the COVID-19 crisis ground planes around the world. “Now people have to go on a trip again, they have to do it.”

The summer surge came despite unusually hot weather in France and across Europe, record drought and devastating forest fires. The season saw chaos at European airports and rising prices which also affected tourists.

Tourism spending in France has reached pre-pandemic levels and even exceeded them in some regions, Tourism Minister Olivia Gregoire told reporters.

According to the government’s first estimates, tourist spending in France this summer was 10% higher than in 2019, based on data on bank card use and income from accommodation and catering.

All of this is important for an industry that represents 8% of the French economy and 2 million jobs.

Tourist visits are expected to decline as autumn approaches, but the summer influx has been so large that the French government is considering ways to make the tourism of the future more sustainable, such as imposing crowd limits in popular places and draw travelers to less famous sites. .

France welcomed 90 million tourists in 2019 and could eventually reach 100 million a year as tourism rebounds and France hosts global events like next year’s Rugby World Cup and the 2024 Olympics , said Gregory.

“We won’t necessarily be able to follow the same practices in 10, 20 years, given the climatic episodes we are facing,” Grégoire told reporters.

As concerns resurface over the impact of overtourism, Gregoire said France aims to “rethink tourism today and tomorrow” to deliver higher quality experiences, take climate and emissions into account and ensure that people of all incomes can enjoy tourism experiences.

About three out of 10 French people did not take a summer vacation, mainly because they could not afford it.

Among the foreigners who visited France this summer, there was a “great return” of British tourists and “Americans came back in force”, as well as Dutch, German and Belgian visitors, said Hugo Alvarez, director of the French tourism development agency Atout France. .

Overlooking the Seine, Lucrecia Evans of Houston said, “Our dollar is much stronger for us. We did a lot more shopping, I’m taking out more euros to take home for my next trip, because the dollar is stronger than the euro at the moment, which it normally isn’t.

American and European visitors made up for a notable absence of Asian tourists in France, kept at home by the maintenance of virus restrictions in some countries. France has lifted almost all COVID rules.

“We were here just before the COVID crisis last time,” said Ainsley Taylor, visiting Paris from Banbury, England. “It’s great to be back.”

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Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to it.

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