Six reasons why France is top tourist destination

 The Local looks at just how did France manage to attract over 84 million tourists last year – far more than any other country – and hear’s from one tourism industry chief in the country who believes the figures do not tell the full story.

Some 84.7 million visitors from across the world flocked to France in 2013, far more than any other country in the world, and plans are underway to up the number to above 100 million mark.

But what makes France such an attractive destination for holiday makers year after year? The Local looks at six reasons to explain the country’s tourism appeal.

But do the figures tell the real story of France’s table topping tourism industry? One professional says the ynumbers are misleading and France needs to do to match the success of the United States and Spain.

Six reasons:

1. The City of Light (incorrect with “s”)

It almost goes without saying, but the French capital is a huge draw for foreign visitors – over 30 million of them a year in fact, more than any other city in the world. What makes it so popular? Where to start. There’s the city’s romantic image, the stunning architecture, the Louvre museum, the iconic Eiffel Tower as well as the simple pleasure of sitting at a café terrace and watching the world go by. European and US visitors have flocked here from all the world for many years, and they keep coming back and in recent years the appeal of Paris has gripped the far east, with mor and more Chinese nationals coming to get a glimpse of the Champs Elysées and its array of boutiques.

And don’t forget Disneyland, which is a destination in itself for foreign visitors. With around 15 million visitors each year, the theme park, just to the east of the French capital is Europe’s top tourist destinaton.

2. A variety of sun, sea and mountains

Many French people shun international destinations for their summer holidays and instead choose to travel within their own country. Why? Well, as they’ll be keen to tell you, it’s because France has everything, from sandy beaches, to snow covered mountains and vast expanses of countryside.

Simon Dawson, from UK tour operator French Cycling Holidays, agrees. “Different regions have completely different appearances,” he says. “There’s the rolling countryside, great cities like Paris, Lyon, Marseille.”

Basically France offers something for everyone. While the Germans may come for the beaches, the Brits for the countryside the Americans come for the chateaux and the culture.

“The weather is a big factor too. “France tends to have really good weather in the summer, it’s hot, but not baking hot like in Spain or Italy for example,” says Dawson.

3. Strategic location

Part of France’s appeal, however, could just be a sheer coincidence of geography. For example, for UK holidaymakers looking to escape their homelands unreliable summers, France is just a short hop across the Channel, a journey some 12.6 million made in 2013. Travellers from another of France’s neighbours, Germany, made up 13 million visitors to France last year, more than any other country. However, not all these visitors are coming to see France itself.

“Because of France’s position many tourists are forced to pass through the country on their way to other destinations,” explains Didier Arino, president of tourism industry specialists Protourisme. “Between 15 and 20 million of the visitors who come to France are just passing through on their way to Italy or Spain.”

4. Escape to the countryside

Around 80 percent of France is countryside – and most of it stunning and tranquil. Besides Paris, this is the part of France most tourists want to see, says Dawson. “The most popular areas for our customers are the Loire Valley, Provence, the famous beautiful regions of France,” he says.

The countryside is particularly popular with those from the UK, who have a romantacised vision of rural life in France, according to Protourisme’s Arino.

“The British are in love with rural France. They idealise the countryside,” he says. The Brits enjoythe contrast of the peaceful “France profonde” compared to the hussle and bussle of the towns and cities many of them live in.

5. Food and wine

France is, of course, inseparable from its famed gastronomical traditions and the chance to dine on French specialities, even the clichéd snails or steak tartare is no doubt a major part of what attracts visitors to the country. France knows this and is keen to protect its status as the world’s food capital, as evidenced by its recent “homemade” food label scheme designed to discourage chefs from using frozen or ready-prepared ingredients.

No proper French meal is complete without a few glasses of ‘vin’ and the country’s vast array of home-produced wines is another draw for tourists. Each year, around 24 million foreign tourists visit Bordeaux, Burgundy and France’s other wine regions.

6. Art , history and culture

France is extremely proud of its long and often tumultuous history, from the French revolution to Napoleon and the two world wars, and historical sites are often on the itinerary for visitors. There’s the famous battle sites of the Somme and the D-Day landings, as well as the stunning chateaux, churches and cathedrals that decorate the landscape.

In fact, France has some 39 sites on Unesco’s World Heritage list, putting it fourth in the global rankings. Museums and art galleries are also a major pull for tourists. The Louvre alone, home to the Mona Lisa among around 35,000 other artifacts and artworks, attracts 9.7 million visitors a year, more than any other museum in the world.

The Lonely Planet’s destination editor Kate Morgan sums it all up like this: “As a destination for travellers, France virtually has it all. France entices people of all ages with some of the world’s most iconic landmarks, world-class art and architecture, sensational food, stunning beaches, glitzy ski resorts, beautiful countryside and a staggering amount of history.”

But do the stats tell the real picture?

Despite being the world’s most visited country, France is hoping to boost its tourism numbers still further. Earlier this year, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius unveiled a plan to increase foreign visitor numbers to more than 100 million a year.

Protourisme’s Arino, however is not getting carried away with the figures. For him France needs to focus on persuading the tourists to spend more. While France has the highest number of visitors a year, it is only third in the world when it comes to revenue generated from tourism, he says

“These figures don’t give the whole picture,” he says. “For me France is the third tourist destination in the world, behind the United States and Spain, where the tourism industry in both countries generates more money than in France.

“The only figure that matters is the commercial revenue, not the amount of visitors.

Arino points to the situation of tourists sleeping in their cars as they pass through France on the way to Spain, who are no use to the country economically.

For France to squeeze more money out of visitors Arino says it needs to improve the variety and prices of the accommodation it offers, encourage people to stay longer by giving them a warmer welcome, and make France more competitive in terms of value for money.

Foreign Minister Fabius would agree and has come up with a list of tasks to help improve the welcome for visitors to France.

Source/credit/photos: Written by Sam Ball published in The Local

Advertisements

How to be Parisian? Move to Paris

Reblog: Written by Hadley Freeman for the Guardian:

Real French women don’t resemble the stereotype peddled by endless guides to looking chic, having lovers, eating baguettes and staying thin

Parisian woman near the Eiffel Tower
Your GCSE French teacher probably didn’t look like this … Photograph: Alija/Getty Images

I’ve noticed that yet another book has come out telling us that we should all be more like Parisian women. To save me reading this book, can you tell me how to be more Parisian?

Pas de problème, mon petit chou-fleur! After French Women Don’t Get Fat, French Women Don’t Get Facelifts, French Children Don’t Throw Food, Like a French Woman and French Women Are Just Better Than You So Shut Up About the War Already Because They’re Thinner and Sexier and We All Know What’s Really Important So Nyahhh!, yet another crucial addition to this delightful genre arrives called How To Be Parisian Wherever You are.

I’m afraid I haven’t read the whole thing due to a severe allergy to books that are predicated on national stereotypes so tired they would make the producers of ’Allo ’Allo! balk, but I did read an extract (hard-working journalist, me), and I can tell you, this book looks pretty spectacular. It was written, we are told, by “four stunning and accomplished French women … [who are] talented bohemian iconoclasts”. Coo! Stunning andiconoclastic? That is so Frrrrench, n’est-ce pas? So let’s see how this “iconoclastic” book shatters some French stereotypes. Well, we are told that French women “take their scooter to buy a baguette”. Take their scooter to buy a baguette? I’m sorry, is this a book about how to be French or a GCSE Tricolore text book? What next, “Monsieur Dupont habite à la Rochelle et il aime aller a la piscine”? Anyway, carry on. What else do we clueless non-Frenchies have to do to be more like French women, please?

“Smoke like a chimney on the way to the countryside to get some fresh air.”

“Don’t feel guilty [about infidelity].”

“Cheat on your lover with your boyfriend.”

Wow, this book really blows the lid on French stereotypes, doesn’t it? Totally doesn’t rehash them at all. Mon Dieu! Ooh la la! Nicole Papa! Du vin, du pain, du Boursin!

Admittedly, I am not Parisian. However, half my family is, I lived in Paris for a while after university “studying very hard” (dossing about with my cousins) and my parents still live there, so I have some experience of the place. But the funny thing is, in all my life of being related to Parisians, visiting Parisians and eating baguettes with Parisians on their scooters, I have never once come across a single woman who fits the stereotype peddled by these books. These idiotic guides present an image that is about as representative of Parisians as Four Weddings and a Funeral is of the average Brit. Are there skinny, scary women in Paris who have lots of lovers and always look fabulous? Yes, probably, and I’m guessing they all live in the same tiny square mile off the Boulevard Saint-Germain. But I have never come across any of them, and I used to cover Paris fashion week. It is perhaps the greatest trick France has ever pulled, constantly telling the world how innately chic its people are, while actually not being especially different from any other country. After all, there are rich, skinny, scary women in all major cities. But it is only Paris where we’re led to believe that this tiny demographic is representative of the entire populace.

Seriously, who buys these books? Have they never seen a French person? Do they just forget that their French GCSE teacher didn’t look and dress like Catherine Deneuve? Or are they so filled with self-loathing that they’re willing to cling on to whatever ridiculous lie is peddled by the publishing industry as long as it comes with a promise of self-improvement? Je ne sais pas, c’est très bizarre (see? This “being French” lark is un morceau de gâteau.) We all know that national stereotypes exist, but whoever would have thought that an entire publishing genre could be built upon them? But I appreciate that the publishing industry is struggling, so to help them on their way, here are some other titles that might be worth pursuing:

1. How to Get the Best Sunlounger Round the Hotel Pool Like a German.

2. How to Say ‘I’m WAWKIN’ here, I’m WAWKIN’!’ Like a New Yorker.

3. How to Throw a Shrimp on the Barbie like an Australian.

I’m going to stop now because each of these ideas is gold and I can’t just give them away, you know. The point is, there is nothing inherently chic about Parisians – they just happen to speak French, which is a very chic-sounding language, and they live in a stonkingly beautiful city (which they only saved by being cheese-eating surrender monkeys to the Nazis – I wonder if any of these “How to be Parisian” guides give any tips about how to acquiesce most stylishly to invading fascists? Yeah. I went there.) But as there seems to be some sort of appetite for this nonsense, here – EXCLUSIVELY!!!! – is my guide to being Parisian:

Move to Paris.

Speak French.

The End.

Au revoir, mes petits! Je vous embrasse, ooh la la!

Blossoming Kite Festival

I traveled to Washington D.C. at the beginning of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival.  How to know when the festival is to be held?  Apparently, there is one mysterious cherry tree of unknown breed that reliably blossoms 7-10 days before the other cherry trees open their blossoms – for this reason, it is referred to as the “indicator tree.”

The National Mall, site for the annual kite festival, provided some interesting photo ops of the city; the festival includes demonstrations and competitions and  professional kite flyers attempting to show off their talents to music, not knowing in advance what song would be played.  With only the cooperation of a slight breeze, I was amazed that the kites could even take flight (video & photos below).  Maybe, it was just that I am a lousy kite flyer, trying to blame it on the lack of wind!

The festival is a week-long family affair, with parades, hands-on activities, art demonstrations, performances celebrating Spring, blossom sightseeing cruises, blossom bike paths, river rides, and lantern parks to celebrate the cherry trees, a gift from japan in 1912.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Traveller’s Guide: French Riviera

“Yes, it’s pricey. Yes, it can be crowded. But this corner of France is still the place to go for a little glitz and glamour,” says Aoife O’Riordain.

This sun-soaked corner of south-eastern France is a quintessential summer playground. For tourism purposes, the universally acknowledged extent of the French Riviera is contained within the Alpes-Maritimes department, stretching from Théoule-sur-Mer in the west via the Principality of Monaco to Menton in the east close to the border with Italy.

Photos and full article HERE

 

Credit: Aoife O’Riordain for www.independent.co.uk

 

Sun, Sea, & Green

SUN:

“In an open-topped tour bus, a collector’s car, by Segway, by tram, on foot by boat or by bicycle, there are so many ways to discover Nice and its attractions! Are you having trouble choosing between a classical tour or a chance to get off the beaten tracks, an instructive treasure hunt to discover the history of Nice, a photographic trail accompanied by a professional photographer, a guided tour through some of the city’s most attractive districts with the Heritage Centre, a culinary tour featuring the theme of Niçois cuisine or a custom tour designed especially for you, supervised by a guide?

SEA:

Just imagine… 7 km of beaches bordering the famous Promenade des Anglais! 15 private beaches and 20 public ones in the very heart of the town! Beach restaurants where you can enjoy fish-based dishes, salads or other summertime cuisine with the sound of the waves in the background. Disabled access beaches, children’s games, organised features and entertainment and nautical activities, crystal clear water at just the right temperature …and an amazing view out to sea!   A number of private beaches organize music evenings where you can dance through the night under the stars, with your feet in the water!

GREEN:

As the “green city” of the Mediterranean, Nice is home to more than 100 gardens and some 20 parks with a surface area exceeding 10,000 m2 including the 7-hectare Parc Phoenix, a holder of the “Jardin remarquable” (Remarkable Garden) label. Genuine oases of greenery in the heart of the city, these parks and gardens have been designed to bring man into contact with nature, which can be discovered and admired at any time of year. Already ahead of target in terms of the national ECOPHYTO 2018 Plan, Nice is continuing its efforts to promote sustainable development and has opted for “zero pesticides” to protect biodiversity and the health of its citizens and visitors. Waterfalls, water fun areas and varied tree and shrub varieties await… Enjoy a lungful of fresh air… You’re in Nice!”

See major SUMMER EVENTS HEREKD paperback cover

Source: Nice Convention and Visitors Bureau

SSS widget cover

Roussillon in Provence

The ochre paillette of colors & pigments, that make this town one of the most beautiful villages in France, is quite evident from Roussillon‘s flaming colors in its landscape.  As I walked around this lovely village, I took in all the Provençal flavors, from the ochre cliffs to the local landscape, artisanal shops, and restaurants.

My stomach signaled it was time for lunch, so we chose Le Castrum restaurant, located on the beaten path to take in the sights (read:  people watch).  The daily menu was reasonable and provided enough variety lemoncello bee& choices: meat or fish with an entrée (appetizer) and dessert.  After the meal, we were offered a lemoncello by the restaurant – a very nice gesture on their part.  We weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the after-meal digestif , noticing that a yellow jacket was imbibing as well (maybe that’s where bees in Provence get their yellow-stripe color from)!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Personal side note:  The Cafe de l’Ocrier in Roussillon is a tourist trap type place, with horribly rude service – we actually walked out before ordering drinks there!

Lourmarin in Provence

A recent trip to the Luberon included a stop in Lourmarin, a charming town to stroll, shop, and café hop, not to mention the final resting place for the French philosopher, Albert Camus.

According to France Today, “Camus’ first visit to the region, in 1937, was brief but in 1946 he came from Paris with three fellow writer friends and actually stayed with them at the Château, in Spartan rooms set far apart which felt spooky at night, his at the bottom of the tower. Armed with the carefree camaraderie and joie de vivre of youth, Camus loved Lourmarin – witness his letter of 1947 to his friend and poet, René Char, who hailed from nearby L’Ile-sur-la- Sorgue:  “The region in France that I prefer is yours, more precisely the foot of the Luberon… Lourmarin, etc.”  Camus was just 46 on January 4, 1960, when he died near Sens in a car crash on his way to Paris– snatched midlife, as if to stage an ironical metaphor of the absurdity of life which was central to his philosophical preoccupations.”

 “L’absurde naît de la confrontation de l’appel humain avec le silence déraisonnable du monde.” 

(“The absurd is the product of a collision or confrontation between our human desire for order, meaning, and purpose in life and the blank, indifferent “silence of the universe.”) 

 Camus gravesite Camus headstone

 

Strolling through the town, I  witnessed le football fever for “Les Bleus” before a World Cup match, saw many amusing store front novelties, including an American song lyric sung by Jimmy Hendrix, and passed lovely fountains….all in a picturesque backdrop in the heart of Provence.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.