A record number of tourists visited France in 2018 despite the damage inflicted on the sector by the ongoing “yellow vest” protests, which forced visitors to stay away during the Christmas holidays, the French Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.
For the full year of 2018, the ministry, which is also responsible for the tourism portfolio, expects France to maintain its position as the world’s top tourism destination.
Last year, almost 90 million tourists visited France. The figure in 2017 was 89 million.
“If the news by the end of the year had caused cancelations of travel projects in France, the first indicators do not show a strong stall compared to the annual average,” the ministry said in a statement.
“European markets, which account for nearly 80 percent of international visitors, experienced very moderate declines. … The main cancellations are reported in the long-haul markets, particularly in Asia, which have been sensitive to the images of urban violence and Strasbourg bombing,” it explained.
Projecting the tourism sector’s performance in 2019, the ministry noted that the tour operators were upbeat unless the protests continue.
Since November 2018, people angry over higher fuel taxes and protesting against “unfair” economic reforms have regularly been blocking roads, occupying highway tollbooths and staging rolling nationwide protests.
The last few Saturdays have been marked by violent demonstrations, with burning vehicles and barricades, pillaging and clashes with police in cities across France, mainly in the capital.
Paris, the country’s top tourist destination, has been in lockdown on recent weekends with shops and restaurants forced to stay closed in fear of rioting.