France still number-one tourist destination


PARIS — The number of foreign tourists coming to France declined last year, but it retained its position as the number-one destination for international visitors, the government said Monday.

Foreign tourists numbered 79.3 million in 2008, down 3.0 percent from 2007. While 2008 began positively, tourism later declined as a deepening economic crisis squeezed pocketbooks worldwide.

But according to tourism secretary of state Herve Novelli: “France is still the world’s first (tourist) destination.”

The number of visitors from elsewhere in Europe fell 4.0 percent while those from Japan and North America were down 16 and 2.0 percent respectively, government figures showed.

Novelli said that while tourists in transit who passed through France en route to a destination elsewhere were fewer in 2008, the number of those who stayed in the country was roughly the same as in the previous year: 68 million.

The government on Tuesday is to present the French Senate with legislation designed to modernise the tourism sector and to make it more competitive.

Under the proposal, hotels would be re-classified and a fifth star would be assigned, bringing France into conformity with international practice.