As soon as Covid restrictions were eased in steps in France, the country began witnessing increased domestic travel from within as well as from other EU countries. “In 2022, there has been an increase in international travel, particularly in Paris, despite the war in Ukraine and inflation. International tourism revenues in March 2022 stood at EUR 4 billion, only 4 per cent below the pre-crisis level,” says Christine Nayagam, a France-based, Franco-Indian travel & tourism expert.
According to the government figures, revenues from Europe (Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom) and the United States are also at or above their pre-crisis levels, while flows from India, China, and Japan are still very low offering scope to increase.
For the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic, international tourism revenues in France are exceeding 2019 standards (+8.6 per cent in May 2022 compared to May 2019). Nevertheless, the pandemic has also shut a lot of businesses notably in the hotel and restaurant industries. The iconic Lido de Paris has announced that it is closing due to huge losses incurred after 75 years of existence. Lido was the favorite cabaret show of Indian travellers to France.
Recently France has removed all restrictions related to Covid-19 in order to boost international tourism arrival, notably from Asia, India included. Domestically, France has also suspended the vaccine pass and rules (mask, etc.,) marking a return to a pre-pandemic lifestyle.
France has been the world’s leading tourist destination for more than 30 years. In 2019, 90 million international tourists visited France, as tourism accounts for 8 per cent of GDP. Tourism recovery is of paramount importance to the destination and a plan for the recovery and transformation of tourism was announced by the President of the Republic in June 2021 and unveiled by the Prime Minister during the Destination France Summit in November 2021 with a budget of nearly EUR 2 billion.
The goal of the plan was “To consolidate France’s position as the number one tourist destination in the world.” This plan aims to consolidate France as the world’s leading tourist destination and become a benchmark destination for sustainable tourism.
The beginning of 2022, saw an increase in the number of Indians travelling to France (students and business travelers began travelling to France when the borders reopened) with families and honeymooners visiting Paris. It was anticipated that more will definitely travel during the year, especially as fairs, concerts, and other large-scale events were also now being scheduled and taking place.
This indeed bodes well for France as there has been an exponential increase in the number of tourists to France in Q2 and Q3 of 2022. “As Atout France, we have a slew of promotional activities lined up to ensure that France continues to stay a preferred destination for the Indian traveller. On the B2C front, we have launched digital and multimedia campaigns, influencer and media trips to France with key stakeholders in India and France. We will continue to amplify our communication on France’s diverse touristic offering,” says Sheetal Munshaw, Director INDIA, Atout France.
On the trade front, Atout France will shortly hold its flagship event – a B2B showcase ‘Explore France’ that will take place offline for the first time after 3 years in Udaipur with a record participation of 42 tourism representatives from France. “In addition, we will continue to engage with the trade through familiarisation trips, and training programmes and invite trade representatives to key B2B buyer-seller meets in France such as the ‘Rendezvous en France’ which is our flagship global event and other themed showcases such as Destination Vignobles – focused on wine tourism and Destination Montagnes that showcases alpine tourism,” adds Munshaw.
Obtaining a Schengen visa has been a sore point this year with long wait times being reported from almost every European country.
“Since the reopening of borders, there has been an unprecedented rush in travel to European destinations. The Embassy team and Consular services pan India and at VFS are doing their best to facilitate visa processes,” says Munshaw.
Also, the transportation costs (airlines) will remain high for the moment with inflation on the rise. “French airports are also still suffering from staff shortages and strikes,” adds Nayagam.
Since the travel restrictions were just removed completely, the efforts being made by all stakeholders of the tourism industry – the airlines, airports, hotels, tourism bodies, tourist attractions, etc., – will only show results next year post the high travel season for Indians.
“Regarding tourism and economic development in general, France is today definitely required to work with India (the 6th economy worldwide ahead of France). The two countries notably have very good political relations,” adds Nayagam.
With French authorities laying out the roadmap for the next 10 years for the tourism sector to bounce back after being hit particularly hard by the public health crisis, the plan to consolidate France’s stable position as the world’s number one tourist destination certainly seems to be on the right track.