France Expected to Remain Most Popular Destination in 2024

The latest flight booking data from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and its knowledge partner ForwardKeys shows France is set to keep its pole position as the world’s most popular destination for international arrivals this year. The research reveals a positive outlook for France's inbound travel, with arrivals set to almost reach pre-pandemic highs this year.

During her participation at the Destination France event taking place in Chantilly and hosted by President Emmanuel Macron, Julia Simpson, WTTC president and CEO, praised France for its focus in recognizing the economic and cultural value travel and tourism brings in jobs and contribution to GDP. This is achieved through a strong private sector working well with government and the regions.

According to latest analysis from WTTC and ForwardKeys, international arrivals in France for the first half of 2024 are at 93 percent of the same period in 2019, with France cementing its position as the world’s most popular destination. International arrivals to France are surging significantly in the first half of this year, providing a welcome boost to the sector, which, at its peak, contributed €220 billion ($239 billion) to the national economy and travel and tourism businesses up and down the country, supporting 2.7 million livelihoods.  Research also shows that airlines are ramping up their capacity to match the growing demand from around the world, with the number of seats set to surpass 2019 levels this year.

Olivier Ponti, vice president Insights at ForwardKeys, said: “With flight bookings on the rise and air carriers set to introduce a record number of seats, France enters 2024 in a strong position. Capitalizing on the successful hosting of the Rugby World Cup 2023 and on the growing exposure provided by the upcoming Olympic Games, the country is set to be one of most thought-after destinations this year for both regional and long-haul markets.”

This rise in passenger capacity is led by Orly Airport, with an increase of 28 percent, reaching nearly 8 million. Charles de Gaulle remains the busiest airport in France and will reach 18.5 million in the first six months of 2024, just 3 percent below 2019 levels. 

Paris is the world’s most powerful city destination. According to accommodation data from WTTC Knowledge Partner CoStar, occupancy rates in the French capital reached above 2019 level in the first half of 2023 for over half of hotel classes. In 2024, other French cities are also going to be popular attractions for foreign visitors. Nice is among the top-performing European cities, with international arrivals expected to reach 94 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

Travelers to France are also spending more money, with bookings of premium cabins witnessing a surge of 21 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels in the first half of the year. 

Last year, WTTC's Economic Impact Research (EIR) revealed that the French travel and tourism sector is expected to grow at an average of 3 percent annually over the next decade, twice the 1.5 percent annual growth rate of the country’s overall economy, to reach more than €297 billion (9.7 percent of the total economy). The forecast also revealed the travel and tourism sector in France, is expected to create more than 555,000 jobs in the next 10 years, averaging nearly 56,000 new jobs every year, reaching nearly 3.3 million employed within the sector by 2033.

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