By: Bert Gordon
History & Background:
The importance of tourism in France was recognized officially as early as 1910 with the establishment of an Office National du Tourisme, to promote it, under the Minister of Public Works. State sanctioned paid holidays [congés payés] in 1936 stimulated domestic tourism and the developing youth hostel movement [Auberges de jeunesse], which emphasized touring in and becoming acquainted with the various regions of France. Tourism, both domestic and foreign, has continued to grow during the second half of the 20th century and into the 21st.
Themes Shaped the French History:
- French frontiers in Europe have been historically unstable. Unlike Spain or Britain, the French concentrated their wars on land, visible in fortifications such as the ancient Roman Limnes, Marshal Vauban’s [1633-1707] fortresses, and the Maginot Line in the 1930s.
- France benefits from the best of northern hemisphere agriculture and industry: good land, food, ports, not much snow or ice, and produces a relatively large population that can be readily mobilized.
- The Roman legal and episcopal system continues into modern France. The centralized system of prefects, set up by Napoleon, still evokes Roman law today.
- There is a struggle between civil and religious systems. Invariably the civil wins out, as in the current controversy about wearing religious tokens (Islamic headscarves for women) in public schools.
France Languages Today
Contemporary Tourism Profile
- In 1970, France ranked third in the number of tourist visits measured by the WTO. The French Revolution Bicentennial celebrations helped move France into first place, where it has remained since 1988.
- France’s tourism figures, however, are undoubtedly inflated in that many visitors counted as tourists in France are travellers from northern Europe on their way to Spain or Italy. These visitors stop again in France on their way home so, consequently, they are counted twice or more but their stays are shorter than in other countries.
- In tourist income, France drops to third place, behind the United States and Italy. Terrorist attacks in 2015, however, have slowed tourism growth especially in Paris.
About the Government System
France’s Fifth Republic, in place since 1958, is a system with a strong central government, headed by a powerful executive, the President, elected by universal suffrage since 1962. The current President, François Hollande, is a member of the Socialist party. Presidents are elected for five-year terms with the next election set for 2017.
To promote investment in the tourism industry and the training of its professionals, the government’s Service du tourisme, du commerce, de l’artisanat et services (STCAS; Tourism, Commerce, and Artisan Service) collects information. STCAS operates under a chain of command at the top of which is the Ministry of the Economy and Finance.
Tourism in central government vs local government: What does the government do?The national government gathers statistics related to tourism and disseminates them to those in the industry. National and regional governments advertise to promote tourism around specific themes. Contrats de destination [destination contracts] bring everyone, public and private, in the tourism sector together around a brand to better promote a “new international clientele.” Examples include heritage, as in the case of Mont Saint-Michel and its bay, wine and gastronomic tourism in Burgundy and Bordeaux, mountains such as the Alps and the Pyrenees, and sport and relaxation as in golf in Biarritz. Since 2009 Atout France has been the sole state tourism agency.