France’s tourism sector continued a strong rebound as overnight stays in hotels and other short-term accommodations rose 12.6% in Q1 2023 compared to the same period one year ago, according to the nation’s official statistics agency.
In the latest tourism barometer published this month, the National Institute for Statistics (INSEE) noted that tourism was boosted by a strong increase in visitors from the U.K. Overnight stays by British tourists rose 102.5%, compared to an increase of 41.7% for Germans, 9.7% for Dutch, and 62.3% for Americans. The report does not include camping sites.
“Attendance from European countries strongly contributed to this rise,” the INSEE report says. “In particular, British customers, whose attendance had been in decline since the health crisis, came back to France hotels. Customers from Germany and the Netherlands were more numerous than in Q1 2022, contributing to the hotel attendance’s dynamism. Attendance by non-European customers, especially from the United States, also increased after a long disaffection period.”
INSEE noted that hotels benefited the most from this growing influx of tourists. Hotel stays increased by almost 7 million in Q1 2023 to 42.6 million, up from 35.7 million in Q1 2022. It’s almost equivalent to the 42.7 million in the pre-pandemic period of Q1 2019.
Beyond UK visitors, international tourists, in general, are showing signs of increasing their travel to one of the world’s most popular destinations. Stays by international tourists rose by 4.8 million in the quarter, or 55.8 percent. In contrast, overnight stays by domestic travelers rose 2.1 million or 7.7 %.
Those visitors seem to be choosing luxury over frugality. INSEE reported that upscale hotels saw occupancy rise 31.4% while lower-cost accommodations actually saw bookings dip by 2.7%.
Tourists also seem to be choosing the Paris region as they make their travel plans. Hotel occupancy increased by 37.4% in the Île-de-France region (which includes Paris). In general, travel to France’s urban areas outside of Paris jumped by 15.1%. Meanwhile, overnights to coastal regions only grew 6.1% while ski and mountain regions only saw gains of 3.4%. The latter continue to struggle with the impact of climate change and lower snowfalls.
Business travel offered another bright spot as conferences and other events continue to expand and draw more crowds.
“Business attendance increased sharply in Q1 2023 (+17.3%, representing 3.1 million additional overnight stays) compared to the same period of the last year, which was highly impacted by the sanitary crisis. Despite this rise, business attendance share kept decreasing slowly, going from 48.8% in Q1 2022 to 48% in Q1 2023,” according to the INSEE report.
These upward trends are expected to increase throughout the year. A recent survey by ADN Tourisme, an association of French tourism organizations, indicated that domestic French travelers intended to take more trips in Q2 2023, a period that includes long school holidays, the Easter period, at least 5 official national bank holidays in May, and the start of the summer period in June.
“In a difficult context, the French seek to reconcile their need for rest, disconnection, and comfort with a constrained budget,” said François de Canson, President of ADN Tourisme, in a statement. “The diversity of French destinations and, in particular those of proximity, can meet their expectations. In addition, tourism professionals, first and foremost the staff of the Tourist Offices, are there to advise tourists in order to enable them to prepare holidays that best meet their expectations.”