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France

France retains crown as world’s top tourist destination

The Eiffel Tower continues to be a big attraction for tourists.
The Eiffel Tower continues to be a big attraction for tourists. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

France's Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Friday that the number of foreign visitors to France grew in 2015 despite jihadist attacks in Paris thanks to a sharp rise of 22.7 per cent in the number of tourists from Asia. “The number of Chinese tourists passed the symbolic bar of two million for the first time, and reached 2.2 million,” Ayrault said.

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In a bid to woo Chinese visitors following the attacks, Paris welcomed 55 Chinese tour operators in February to reassure them over security in the city.

More than half a million Indians also visited France.

In 2014, France reduced the time for visas to be issued to 48 hours for visitors from China, India and Singapore.

A total of 84.5 million visitors came to France last year, an increase of 0.9 percent on 2014.

Visitors from the United States were also up, by more than 15 percent, but there was a dip of 1.5 percent in the number of tourists from Europe.

Official figures released on Thursday showed the effect of the 13 November terrorist attacks, with a sharp fall of 16.5 percent in overnight stays in December across all categories of accommodation.

The attacks in which 130 people were killed by Islamic State group gunmen and bombers, “limited this growth, especially in the capital” continued Ayrault.

Visitors from Japan were down 20 percent over the first 10 months of 2015 following the January terror attacks on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket, and the numbers dipped further after the November attacks.

In August last year, then-foreign minister Laurent Fabius said he hoped France would break through the barrier of 85 million visitors in 2015.

The figure did in fact reach 85 million if visitors to France's overseas territories are included.

Ayrault said his aim “remains to attract 100 million foreign tourists a year to France by 2020.”

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