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Deserving Tourists

Terrorist attacks have not damaged France’s appeal for travelers, and the country remains the world’s leading tourist destination. The current obstacles are above all the fault of the French government.

Despite the recent terrorist attacks (and lunatics wandering around the foot of the Eiffel Tower holding knives) France’s appeal has not suffered any long-term damage. The country is still the world’s leading destination for tourists, attracting some 80 million visitors per year — ahead of the United States and Spain. French prime minister Edouard Philippe recently declared that “tourism is a national treasure with exceptional potential.” This industry employs almost two million French people, making it one of the rare national activities experiencing any growth.

Paradoxically, our country is also enjoying greater interest from French people themselves, as well as a number of other Europeans who prefer spending their holidays in our comparatively safer country instead of venturing to North Africa. We have also improved how we welcome international visitors, adding to the sector’s growth. While there are still some rude waiters (something of a national tradition), most of them speak at least one foreign language, and Anglophones and others are no longer snubbed in the bistros and brasseries.

There are still obstacles, of course, but they are more down to the French government, which is conducting an Airbnb witch hunt, extorting hotels and restaurants, and imposing employment laws that fail to facilitate the services expected by visitors. Macron’s new government swears it will remove said obstacles. In an effort to reach “100 million [tourists] by 2020,” the prime minister has promised to simplify tourist visas and reduce airport waiting times. We would like to believe him.

In the meantime, international tourists are showing remarkable patience. It’s no mean feat visiting the Périgord region or the châteaux in the Loire Valley, especially when you have to wait for two hours at Charles de Gaulle airport only to discover the stores are closed because the law forbids working on Sundays.