(PARIS-AFP) – France welcomed 84.7 million foreign tourists in 2013 making it once again the most-visited country in the world, according to a study published Monday.
The figure topped the 2012 number by two percent, and meant that when it comes to attracting foreign visitors, France easily beats the United States and Spain who had 69.8 and 60.7 million foreign visitors each.
The study — which showed figures for France up from 83 million in 2012 — is published annually by the economy ministry’s DGCIS international competitiveness agency and by the central bank (Banque de France).
According to the report, France saw an increase in European tourists, of 1.2 percent on the previous year, driven by German and British visitors, although the number of tourists from Belgium, Luxembourg and crisis-hit Italy and Spain decreased.
After a big drop in 2012, North American tourists made a return, with the number of visitors crossing the Atlantic up by 5.8 percent.
However the biggest boom was seen in Asian visitors, with the number of Chinese tourists up by almost a quarter.
Asian tourists now number 4.5 million a year, up 13 percent, with Chinese visitor numbers in particular up by 23.4 percent to 1.7 million.
“Their interest in France has been proven in recent years, with the number of tourists doubling between 2009 and 2013,” the report said.
But the report was not unremitting good news for the French tourism sector.
While the study found that visitors have lengthened their stay in France, from an average of 6.9 to 7.1 nights per visit, it found that the number of nights spent in paid accommodation increased less rapidly, as visitors sought to stay with family and in apartment exchanges to save money.