Tourism is a major part of the French economy, representing close to 8% of GDP and 2 million direct and indirect jobs. It is also a recognized soft power asset abroad, and France has been the world’s leading tourist destination for years. A record 90 million international tourists visited France in 2019, including its overseas communities.
In 2020, the sector has been hit hard by the COVID-19 public health crisis, leading international tourist revenue to drop by almost half in the first seven months of the year.
Globally, Europe is the second hardest-hit region, behind the Asia-Pacific, seeing a drop in visits of 66% in the first half of the year. The drop in French and foreign tourist spending in France over 2020 is estimated at between 30% and 35%. However, France does appear to be resisting better than its European neighbours, thanks to its solid domestic market.
The Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs promotes and supports the tourism sector through innovative measures suited to the industry’s needs.
This cooperative approach led to the creation of the Tourism Sector Committee (CFT) in January 2020, chaired by the Minister of State, Mr Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne.
Its aim is to jointly design effective tourism policies, working on four themes: jobs and training, sustainable development, digitalization, and regulations and competitiveness.
The work carried out at the CFT should lead to the signing of a tourism sector contract to provide effective responses suited to the industry’s needs.
The CFT has been particularly useful and effective in addressing the concertation and emergency needs caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Since the beginning of the public health crisis, the committee has met almost weekly.
Its work has helped analyse the challenges and priority needs of the sector in order to seek appropriate solutions. It has helped highlight how numerous and diverse tourism-dependent businesses are, each with its own issues.
Various tools and measures have been established during the crisis:
- A monthly Atout France/Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau barometer;
- Webinars, benchmarks, surveys and studies by Atout France;
- The “This summer I’m visiting France” campaign from June to September 2020 in order to promote domestic tourism;
- An interactive map of tourism venues and services, carried out with ADN Tourisme, to provide information to more than 10 million people on social media. This initiative contributed actively to promoting stays in France among tourists from both France and neighbouring countries.
Alongside the CFT’s work since the beginning of the crisis, the Minister of State has also met with institutional and private stakeholders from each French region in order to best adapt the Government’s support to the sector.
Tourism companies have enjoyed all the emergency measures adopted by the Government in response to the pandemic’s economic consequences:
- Support for jobs, through the partial employment measure, which the sector has used widely;
- Support for companies’ cash flow through the Government-guaranteed loan (PGE) and the solidarity fund, open until the end of 2020, as well as certain social contribution exemptions;
- Cancellation of instalments of rent and fees for use of public land for SMEs, particularly during administrative closure.
The Government has also announced the creation of a “season PGE”, capped at the turnover of the best three months of 2019, and the postponement of bank repayment instalments over 12 months.
These discussions also contributed to drafting a specific Government plan for the sector’s recovery, totalling €18 billion. The specific recovery plan was announced by the Prime Minister on 14 May 2020, during the fifth meeting of the Interministerial Tourism Committee (CIT). It includes the creation of an investment fund of €1.3 billion managed by the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations and Bpifrance in order to foster the emergence of more sustainable tourism, more digital and better distributed across the country. The France Tourisme Ingénierie programme, managed by Atout France, has also been granted increased capacity of €29 million in order to support local authorities and private stakeholders wishing to improve the tourism offering.
Moreover, the recovery plan presented by the Government in early September 2020 includes the creation of a sustainable tourism fund with €50 million to foster the adaptation of tourism activities. Restaurants and tourist accommodation providers will receive financial support (grants) in order to cover the costs of investments for the transition and development of sustainable tourism projects. The French Agency for the Ecological Transition (ADEME) will be the leader for the deployment of this fund, in close liaison with local government in order to address specific needs.
The plan has since been strengthened, particularly as regards the implementation of support measures for the sector such as widening the list of companies eligible under the tourism plan, extending 100% coverage of payroll costs under partial employment, enhancement of the solidarity fund and expansion of the scope of the “season PGE” programme, in constant dialogue with industry stakeholders.
Updated: October 2020