France remains top global tourist destination in 2012

PARIS (AFP) - France kept its position as the world's top tourist destination in 2012, with 83 million foreign visitors, and continued to host an increasing number of Asian travellers, official figures showed on Tuesday.

"With a new record number of arrivals by foreign tourists... France in 2012 retained its first place in the world," France's DGCIS international competitiveness agency said in its annual report on tourism.

The figure beat the previous record of 81.4 million foreign visitors in 2011.

"The economic and political problems that are affecting many parts of the world continue to spare the tourism sector," the report said, noting that the number of global tourists was up four percent in 2012.

In France, Europeans continued to make up the bulk of visitors last year, accounting for more than 83 per cent of tourists.

The number of European visitors to France was up 2.1 per cent last year, the report said, while the number of Asian tourists grew at a rate of 9.9 per cent.

The number of visitors from China alone was up 23.3 per cent, it said, though they still represented only 1.4 million visitors.

The country that sent the most tourists to France last year was Germany, with 12.2 million visitors.

The number of tourists from the Americas was however down by 3.2 per cent, while the number of African visitors was also down, by 2.5 per cent.

The report said overall tourist spending was up by 6.3 per cent last year, to 35.8 billion euros (S$59 billion).