France retains tourism crown

France looks on course to reach its ambitious target of 100 million visitors per year by 2020 after figures released by the UN show that a record 89 million tourists visited these shores in 2017 – an increase of six million on 2016.

Visitor numbers had suffered in recent years follow in a series of terror attacks in Paris and elsewhere across France in 2015 and 2016, but holidaymakers are now returning in their droves.  The report from the UN’s World Tourism Organisation shows that global tourism jumped 7% last year with France well ahead of second-placed Spain. With 82.3 million tourists in 2017, Spain overtook the USA as the world’s second most popular destination, despite terror attacks of its own and independence demonstrations in Catalonia. In 2016, America welcomed 75.6 million visitors – 300,000 more than Spain. Currently, tourism generates 7% of France’s GDP although the government hopes to increase that figure to 10%.

In further good news, British magazine The Economist has voted France as its “country of the year” for 2017. The centre-left leaning political magazine gave particular praise to France for the voting in of Macron and his party La République en marche. They judged that the president, despite coming from a “party full of political novices”, had “crushed the old guard”, “swept aside the ancien régime” and “transformed the national political debate”.

According to The Economist’s website:  “Rogue nations are not eligible, no matter how much they frighten people. (Sorry, North Korea). Nor do we plump for the places that exert the most influence through sheer size or economic muscle – otherwise China and America would be hard to beat. Rather, we look for a country, of any size, that has changed notably for the better in the past 12 months, or made the world brighter.” ■

Article source:  The Bugle, Feb. 2017

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