Tourism is a major sector in France. As measured by combining tourism-related spending by both French residents and non-residents, the sector accounted for 7.5% of GDP in 2019. Tourism directly employed 1.5 million people, approximately 7.5% of the national workforce. The impacts of COVID-19 saw tourism GDP fall by 34% to EUR 114.5 billion, or 5.3% of the economy in 2020. Employment was less impacted, but there was still a loss of 155 764 jobs. Three-quarters of the jobs lost were in the accommodation and food services sectors.

In 2019, almost 91 million international tourists visited France. At that time, international revenues exceeded EUR 56 billion, accounting for 21% of French service exports. In 2020, France recorded 41.7 million international tourists, a decline of 54.2%. This translated to a 49.7% decline in international travel receipts. In 2021, there was a slight recovery, with international tourists increasing to 48.4 million.

The domestic market was an important backbone for tourism in 2020, declining just 26.7% to 152 million tourists. This saw the domestic share of tourism expenditure increase from 59.7% in 2019 to 66.7% in 2020. In 2021, domestic tourists recovered to 187.3 million, remaining only 9.8% below 2019 numbers.

Since 2022, the Ministry in charge of Economy is mainly responsible for tourism policy (previously responsibility was shared with the Ministry for European and Foreign Affairs). Other ministries involved in monitoring tourism issues include the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Ecological Transition, Sport, Culture, Territorial Cohesion, and the Ministry of France Overseas.

All territorial levels of public governance have tourism responsibility. The Regional Council, with the support of the Regional Tourism Committee, co-ordinates public and private initiatives in tourism development, information and promotion, including initiatives in foreign markets. It also ensures the collection of local data and the processing and dissemination of data relating to tourism activity in its territory. The Departmental Council can create a Departmental Tourism Committee, whose actions are focused on structuring the offer and supporting tourism actors. Municipalities also formulate local tourism policies.

Until 2022, an Inter-Ministerial Council for Tourism met regularly under the chair of the Prime Minister, bringing together ministers, elected representatives and sector professionals to present France’s roadmap for tourism in the context of key issues for discussion. To better co-ordinate public and private tourism governance, in 2020 the Inter-Ministerial Council for Tourism set up a Committee for the Tourism Sector to enable stakeholders to consult each other and allow for the co-construction of tourism policies by professionals (nearly 300 members) and public authorities. This committee was useful in raising the concerns of professionals and improving support measures for the sector during the COVID-19 crisis.

The total state’s tourism budget (including spending by various ministries, such as culture) is estimated to be EUR 7.5 billion. The cumulative budget of the Regional Tourism Committee exceeds EUR 120 million, and the Departmental Tourism Committee receives EUR 230 million.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, France increased support measures for all sectors, with a particular focus on tourism. These included solidarity funds, fixed cost schemes, partial activity (where the Government covers some of employees' salaries), and state-guaranteed loans. The measures, totalling EUR 36 billion, made it possible to preserve employment and avoid losing knowledge and long-acquired assets.

In addition to the support measures to overcome the crisis, France has also announced recovery measures.

Firstly, in May 2020, stimulus measures to support investment (totalling EUR 1.3 billion) with a focus on the hotel and restaurant sector and events and business tourism (EUR 100 million) were introduced. Some measures related to standardisation, for example, the modernisation and greening of accommodation classifications. The themes of sustainability and digital technology are very present in the plan.

Priority lines of action for France include the quality and structuring of the tourist offer, state support for investments, training and employment, support for digitalisation and information sharing, and providing access to holidays for as many people as possible.

Secondly, in May 2021, France launched the Future of Mountains plan (Avenir Montagnes) to enhance sustainable and resilient mountain tourism which addresses its objective through three priorities:

  • Encouraging the diversification of the tourism offer and the development of new customers.

  • Stepping up the pace of the ecological transition of tourism activities in the mountains.

  • Revitalising recreational real estate and stopping the development of empty beds.

In total, Avenir Montagnes represents a commitment of over EUR 640 million of public funds for mountain regions, generating nearly EUR 1.8 billion of investment in these areas. France is launching the Avenir Montagnes fund with a budget of EUR 331 million, including EUR 300 million for investment support (with six regions committing the same amounts) and EUR 31 million allocated to providing engineering support to regions.

Thirdly, at the end of 2021, the Destination France plan was launched for the revival and transformation of the tourism sector. The plan lays the foundations for tourism policy in France over the next ten years. It allocates almost EUR 2 billion, and the main lines of action include:

  • Win over and win back talent (see box below) through a major communication campaign particularly targeted at young people, aimed at showing the rich diversity of jobs in tourism.

  • Strengthen the resilience of the sector and encourage quality upgrades of product. Support will be targeted towards major events, trade fairs, exhibitions and congresses with an international dimension who were particularly affected by the health crisis.

  • Promote and develop French tourism assets by creating a Destination France fund. EUR 51 million is earmarked to support the development of French tourism assets, and another EUR 55 million is allocated to promote and strengthen a tourism engineering support offer for regions.

  • Respond to the challenges of transforming the sector by promoting sustainable tourism, a reduced eco-footprint, investment in sustainable tourism infrastructure, digital transformation and supporting the development and scale-up of start-ups in the tourism sector.

  • Promote France as a destination and consolidate its market share by strengthening communication aimed at tourists and investors.

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