France is “most popular” international travel destination

According to the latest flight booking data from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and ForwardKeys, France remains the “most popular” destination for international arrivals this year.

The new research reveals a positive outlook for France’s inbound travel, with arrivals set to almost reach pre-pandemic highs this year.

Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO, praised France for its steely 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.

International arrivals are up

The WTTC and ForwardKeys analysis indicates that international arrivals in France for the first half of 2024 are at 93 per cent 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 to the national economy, and travel and tourism businesses up and down the country, supporting 2.7 million livelihoods.

Research also revealed 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.

“With flight bookings on the rise and air carriers set to introduce a record number of seats, France enters 2024 in a strong position,” Olivier Ponti, vice-president, Insights at ForwardKeys said. “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.”

Popular French cities

This rise in passenger capacity is led by Orly Airport, with an increase of 28 per cent, reaching nearly eight million. Charles de Gaulle remains the busiest airport in France, to reach 18.5 million in the first six months of 2024, just three per cent below 2019 levels.

Paris is the world’s most powerful city destination, but 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% of pre-pandemic levels.

France as a destination is becoming increasingly popular amongst Spanish and Canadian travellers, with international arrivals exceeding 2019 levels by more than 64 per cent and 54 per cent, respectively.

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