While the rebound can be traced to the end of last year, a significant upsurge in tourist numbers was observed in the first four months of 2017 when 2.6 million foreign nationals travelled to the French capital. This represents a massive 19% increase compared with the same period in 2016 – a year in which total visitor numbers were down 5% on 2015 at 14.5 million. If tourism ministry forecasts are correct, France will welcome a record 89 million visitors in 2017, a 5% increase on 2016.
In addition to the incidents in Paris in January and November 2015 and the subsequent attack in Nice during the Bastille Day 2016 celebrations, frequent violent protests against labour reforms and a spate of robberies against Asian tourists are thought to have temporarily turned people off the French capital. British tourists have also stayed at home due to the post-Brexit weakening of the pound.
Interestingly, the recent rise in terrorism incidents outside of France, notably in Belgium, Britain, and Germany, has had a positive impact on people’s willingness to travel to Paris again.
As Josette Sicsic, head of Touriscopie, a firm that tracks tourist behaviour, explained to France 24, these events ‘are affecting tourism for shorter and shorter periods.’ Moreover, she explained that Paris has become the beneficiary of a strange ‘kind of fatalism’: people have decided that they ‘can be hit by a terrorist act in their country of origin or when travelling [so] you can’t keep boycotting Paris.’
Nicolas Lefebvre, director of the Paris Tourism Office, appears to concur with Sicsic: ‘The constant repetition of these events – there have been several in a few months, thankfully less deadly – has made them sort of part of the landscape, and it no longer stops people from imagining, thinking about, and organising a trip to Europe, and to Paris in particular.’
Despite the 2016 downturn, Paris retains its position as one of the world’s most visited cities. According to research by On The Go Tours, of the 20 places that made Mastercard’s Global Destinations Cities Index, the French capital is where locals are outnumbered by tourists to the greatest extent. On average, eight tourists come to Paris every year for every Parisian that calls it home, leading to a 704% population increase.