French Tourism is booming - France Remains a Tourism Top Spot

France retained its place as the most popular tourist destination in the world in 2006, with 78 million visitors, an increase of nearly 2 million over 2005. The tendency in recent years towards shorter and more frequent holidays and later bookings was confirmed again last year. Short holidays in the Spring and Autumn have become particularly popular. City breaks and the beaches of the Atlantic coast were also strongly in favour. Visitors from the United Kingdom headed the list of international visitors, followed by the Germans. The Chinese have also begun to develop a notable presence with 600,000 visiting France last year. Hotel and campsites both saw an increase in bookings, with those at the top end benefiting from the largest increases. Whilst visitors from the UK took top spot on hotel bookings, the Dutch grabbed most of the available places on the campsites with 42% of all bookings. Income from international tourism is hugely important for France. Last year it generated €34 billion in revenues, with total tourism receipts accounting for 2 million jobs and 6.5% of the gross national product. It is the third highest job generator in the country, after business services and construction. Whilst industry analysts do not dispute the popularity of France as a tourist destination, there is debate about the validity of the statistics produced by the French tourist ministry. Thus, the figures are based largely on the number of overnight visitors in hotels, guesthouses, classified gites and campsites. The figures, therefore, overestimate the actual number of tourists because they include those staying temporarily in France on their way to another country (often to Spain). However, the figures also understate the number of people staying in second homes, unclassified holiday homes or with friends. The general consensus amongst analysts is that, if anything, the figures probably underestimate the actual number of tourists to France each year.


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