French tourism outlook gloomy for 2009: minister

Tue Apr 7, 2009 5:38am EDT
 
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PARIS (Reuters) - Tourism in France is set to fall this year, the government said on Tuesday, after announcing a 3 percent drop in the number of foreign visitors in 2008.

Tourism accounts for around 6 percent of gross domestic product in France, the world's top tourist destination, but last year's total of 80 million visitors included fewer from Britain, Germany, the United States and Japan.

"The trend is toward a slight worsening in 2009. In February the number of visits fell and in March the situation will be difficult for all sectors except for rentals," Tourism Minister Herve Novelli said in Le Parisien newspaper.

"The crisis and the increase of last-minute reservations makes forecasts more difficult."

Fewer French people also went on holidays last year but those who did took more breaks within France meaning that overall tourism held up in 2008 despite the financial crisis.

"Hotel visits stagnated but stays at campsites and holiday villages rose," Novelli said.

"Overall it's a very slight improvement compared to 2007."

(Writing by Anna Willard; editing by Stephen Nisbet)

 
<p>The Eiffel Tower is pictured in Paris March 28, 2009. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier</p>