394,000 French visitors came here in 2007, making France our 4th largest market overall, and our second largest Continental European market.
Though a large source market for Ireland, France itself is ranked as the first destination in the world with 82 million foreign tourists in 2007 (that’s way ahead of the next two, Spain with 58 million and the US with 51 million). This is not surprising given the extraordinary beauty of much of the country, and the range of iconic attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, Palace of Versailles, Musée d’Orsay, Mont-Saint-Michel; the list goes on and on.
With a population of 64 million, and an area of 550,000 sq kilometres, France has the largest area of EU members.
France has an advanced industrial economy and a large farming sector. Main activities include automobile manufacture, aerospace, information technology, electronics, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, and fashionware.
France is the sixth largest economy in the world and is in the midst of transition from a well-to-do modern economy that has featured extensive government ownership and intervention to one that relies more on market mechanisms. Though current turmoil in global financial markets is causing a rethink of this policy, particularly as it applies to banking. The government has nonetheless partially or fully privatised many large companies, banks and insurers, and has ceded stakes in such leading firms as Air France, France Telecom, Renault and Thales. It maintains a strong presence in some sectors, particularly power, public transport, and defence industries.
France’s leaders remain committed to a capitalism in which they maintain social equity by means of laws, tax policies, and social spending that reduce income disparity and the impact of free markets on public health and welfare.
Widespread opposition to labour reform has in recent years hampered the government’s ability to revitalize the economy. France’s tax burden remains one of the highest in Europe (nearly 50% of GDP). France brought the budget deficit within the eurozone’s 3%-of-GDP limit for the first time in 2007 and has reduced unemployment to roughly 8%.
France has produced some of the continent’s most influential writers and thinkers from Descartes and Pascal in the 17th century, to Rousseau and Voltaire in the 18th, Balzac, Baudelaire and Flaubert in the 19th and Sartre and Camus in the 20th. In the last two centuries it has given the art world the works of Renoir, Monet, Cezanne, Gauguin, Matisse and Braque, to name but a few.
France also has produced some of the world’s most beautiful classical music from composers such as Hector Berlioz, Georges Biset, Lili Boulanger, Jacques Offenback, Claude DeBussy and Maurice Ravel (bet there’s a couple of those you didn’t think were French).
The French make 30 million trips out of France each year, of which over 80% are to other European countries. Over 3 million go to Britain; 1.3 million use the tunnel, 1.5 million by air and over 600,000 by ferry.
While French visitor numbers of Ireland were fairly static between 2000 and 2004, good growth was achieved in the last 3 years, almost certainly the result of greatly expanded air and sea access.
The ratio of first time to repeat visitors has consistently stood at 60:40. There has been no significant change in the type of party. One-third are couples, one-quarter travel as a family group, while those travelling alone and other adult groups each make up just over one-fifth of the holiday market.
B&B’s remain the most popular form of accommodation with the French. However, B&B’s share of the market is coming under pressure from rented accommodation and hotels.
Hiking/walking remains the most popular outdoor activity having improved its position over the past three years, and is now engaged in by 1 in 5 French holidaymakers.60% visit places of historical/cultural interest while 1 in 5 visit gardens.
French employees receive 25 standard days annual leave, one of the highest amounts of paid leave in the world.
Last year’s 394,000 French visitors spent an estimated €200 million while here, for an average length of stay of 8 nights.
In today’s uncertain climate it is difficult to assess the full potential of the French market to Ireland. But given a return to more normal global economic activity it should be possible to exceed half a million visitors within a 5 years period. That would be very impactful, particularly in the West and South West, the two regions of Ireland most favoured by our French visitors.
For much more on the future possibilities from the French market, click here to visit the Tourism Ireland website.
Next up – Germany.