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Regional tourism in France - statistics & facts

In 2018, France was the most visited country in the world, based on overnight stays. Its most visited region was, unsurprisingly, Ile-de-France, thanks to Paris. Other regions are also very popular and attract several million tourists annually. Each French region specializes in particular activities. Well-known examples include Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, Occitania, Grand-Est and overseas departments.

Diverse tourism patterns

The flow of tourists varies widely depending on the region in France. Three regions accounted for more than 50 percent of the number of tourist nights in 2017: Île-de-France, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Provences-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. The same analysis applies to campsites that are unevenly distributed on French territory. Regions such as New Aquitaine, located on the Atlantic coast, and Occitania, located on the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean, take advantage of natural wealth to be the two leading French regions in terms of the number of campsites. However, while the number of tourist accommodation facilities is quite low on its territory, Corsica had the highest rate of salaried employees in the tourism sector in France.

The South of France

The regions of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Occitania, New-Aquitaine, Provence-Alpes-Côtes d'Azur are the most visited regions of France. The sunny weather and temperatures are already higher in these areas, but they also have two sea fronts, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean, in addition to three massifs, the Massif Central, the Pyrenees and the Alps. These regions have been able to exploit their natural advantage, even in winter, with annual turnover on ski resorts amounting to as much as 1.3 billion euros.
The most visited attraction in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes was the Montenvers-Mer de Glace railway, located in the Alps, not far from the Chamonix ski resort.
The Provence-Alpes-Côtes d'Azur region and its port of Marseille also benefit from the popularity of cruises to attract new tourists. The number of passengers has been steadily increasing since 2013; in 2017, 1.7 million passengers docked at the port of Marseille.
In Occitania, many tourists are interested in the history of the region and the Cathar past of this territory. In 2018, the Pont du Gard and the city of Carcassone were the most popular tourist attractions in the region.

Grand-Est Region and overseas departments

Tourism in the Grand-Est region is mainly focused on the Lorraine region, including the cities of Metz and Nancy, as well as in Alsace with Strasbourg and Colmar. In 2018, more than two thirds of overnight stays were made in Alsace and Lorraine, while only 4 percent of overnight stays were in the Ardennes. The proximity to cities in the Benelux and Germany makes this region attractive to many international tourists. In 2018, more than half of campers in the Grand-Est region were foreigners.
Concerning the overseas departments, the natural setting varies greatly, making it difficult to group them all under the same tourist categories. Guadeloupe and Martinique benefit from a large number of beaches and the French authorities have largely developed the mass tourism offer for several decades. In 2018, there were more than 6,200 hotels in Martinique, which is a lot for an area of 1,128 square kilometers. For comparison, while it is the largest French department, in French Guiana there were about thirty hotels. The tourist offer is primarily accessible through simpler accommodation such as mountain lodges and other gites (cottages) on the edge of the immense Amazonian forest.

Following the lockdown linked to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, the French government has launched a widespread national campaign to encourage the French population to spend their vacations in France. Taking advantage of sea fronts on all the oceans of the globe, this kind of government measure should encourage more French people to take domestic vacations. However, this practice is actually already very popular among the French, compared to other European countries.

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Regional tourism in France

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