France again the most-visited country in the world
France welcomed 84.7 million foreign tourists in 2013 making it once again the most-visited country in the world, according to a new study.
|The 1889 Eiffel Tower in Paris|
The figure topped the 2012 number by two percent, and meant that when it comes to attracting foreign visitors, France easily beats the United States and Spain who had 69.8 and 60.7 million foreign visitors each.
The study - which showed figures for France up from 83 million in 2012 - is published annually by the economy ministry's DGCIS international competitiveness agency and by the central bank (Banque de France).
According to the report, France saw an increase in European tourists, of 1.2 percent on the previous year, driven by German and British visitors, although the number of tourists from Belgium, Luxembourg and crisis-hit Italy and Spain decreased.
After a big drop in 2012, North American tourists made a return, with the number of visitors crossing the Atlantic up by 5.8 percent. However the biggest boom was seen in Asian visitors, with the number of Chinese tourists up by almost a quarter.
Asian tourists now number 4.5 million a year, up 13 percent, with Chinese visitor numbers in particular up by 23.4 percent to 1.7 million . . . .
Are you surprised that France is world number one for tourist arrivals? I was, so I checked with the United Nations World Tourism Organization website and found that France is a long way from top when it comes to tourism receipts.
|New York's Statue of Liberty,|
an 1886 gift from France
In 2013 there were 1.087 billion tourist arrivals worldwide with growth up 5.0% on 2012. The top ten for arrivals were France, United States, Spain, China, Italy, Turkey, Germany, United Kingdom, Russia and Thailand.
Six of the top ten countries are in Europe and, by my reckoning that makes Europe, not France, the top destination for travelers. France may be merely another place to pass through on the way to a typical tourist’s main destination; the Alps, a Rhine cruise, Rome, a Mediterranean cruise, or perhaps a bull-fight or beach in Spain.
Europe has many fine attractions, wonderful scenery and historic buildings, but tends to be a little on the expensive side. Cost may be causing many tourists to take shorter, once in a lifetime, trips through the region. For many people cost is critical.
On the other hand, the United States also has excellent attractions and nice scenery. But importantly, travel, accommodation, food and shopping are all reasonably priced in the land of Uncle Sam. Tourists entering the United States tend to stay longer, travel further, and spend their whole time in the one country. There is little onward travel to other countries in the region.
In the tourism earnings stakes the United States heads the UN list with $139.6 billion (12.0% of world tourism income) for 2013. Spain is second, and a long way back, with $60.4 billion and France is third with $56.1 billion.
But further down the list a surprise awaits: China, Macau and Hong Kong are listed separately at $51.7 billion, $51.6 billion and $38.9 billion, but they are all now part of the Peoples Republic of China and their combined income from tourism was $142.2 billion in 2012. That puts China $2.6 billion ahead of the United States and top of the list.
Others on the top ten earners list include Italy, Thailand, Germany, United Kingdom, Australia and Turkey.
When tourists plan vacations they look for low cost and great attractions, but their requirements don’t end there. They also want safety. They want safe travel free from worries about, health, criminals, wars and political instability.
|Australia's Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge|
Australia and New Zealand, which is not on the list yet, offer exactly what most tourists want; low cost, safety, and wonderful scenery and attractions. The downside is that we are Downunder and we are a long haul from the world’s major population centers. But after working in tourism for the last 35 years, I can assure would-be visitors that the extra flight time will always result in an extra good time being had.
The United Nations Tourism Organization does a great job making the statistics available, but there are other United Nations organizations that could do a lot more to make the world safer for travelers (and everyone), and, in doing so, created jobs for more people.
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