Trends to Watch in French Leisure Travel

As one of the world’s most visited destinations, France attracts tourists from all corners of the world. The country’s long list of attractions, from the cultural hub of Paris to scenic vineyards of Bordeaux, is also keeping French leisure travelers within the borders of their own country.

Statista reports that domestic tourism expenditure has steadily increased since 2015. Additionally, an Ipsos study finds that 56% of French residents who planned a trip for the summer of 2019 traveled within France — a higher percentage than any other country surveyed.

For travelers who venture out of the country, Spain, Italy and Portugal rank among the top destinations. A GlobalData report even finds that many visitors from France to Portugal do not just see it as a place to soak up the sun, but a spot to visit again and again due to its culture and lifestyle — perhaps even buying a property there. 

To no surprise, Europe is overwhelmingly the top continent for French leisure travelers, trailed by North America and Africa. French residents visited the United Kingdom more than any other country except for the United States, showing that the UK’s impending departure from the European Union has not kept French travelers from visiting.

Hunger for Summer Getaways

Europe’s peak travel season is predictably massive in the French market, with inbound tourists and French residents exploring the country’s scenic coast and growing regions. The summer also presents an opportunity for French residents to take large-scale trips to other countries.

Research shows that they are visiting a wider range of destinations than before, including Egypt and Tunisia. These destinations were previously among the most popular for French tourists, but political instability at the start of the decade led to a cool down.

Whether it is domestic or outbound, French residents prioritize summer travel higher than any other European country. They have many opportunities to travel, with 30 days of legally-mandated leave and 11 public holidays each year. Even with no shortage of these days compared to other many other developed countries, vacation days are seen as “sacred.” 

Lac Blanc, Chamonix, France

The many opportunities French residents have to travel has also not dampened the country’s desire to take day trips. Single-day excursions around France grew steadily between 2014 and 2016 and jumped nearly 26% in 2017. International day trips also increased during this time period.

What Influences French Tourists?

One of the things that draw French leisure travelers to particular destinations is what kind of activities are available to them. Research finds that outdoor activities are particularly influential for both domestic and outbound travelers. This trend is consistent with a number of the most popular vacation types for domestic travelers, as they commonly enjoy visits to the ocean, summer homes or camping trips.

As is true with many other well-traveled countries, Expedia finds that the desire to make memories and have a once-in-a-lifetime experience is most common among millennials and Gen Z travelers. Social media also has a far greater impact on the travel decisions of these two generations when compared to boomers and Gen X.

The channel with the most influence on this front is Facebook, with 65% of Gen Z and 63% of millennials saying the world’s largest social network has some impact on their decision-making processes. Instagram ranks second among these two generations, with Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest rounding out the group. 

Capitalizing on Top Travel Interests

The popularity of outdoor activities is not limited to the summer, as ski trips to the country’s many winter resorts are immensely popular as well. The desire to get out of urban centres and enjoy the outdoors is a huge factor in the decision-making process for many travelers, putting pressure on travel brands to effectively market their experiences.

Millennials are taking more trips than any other generation in France, averaging nearly five trips each year. They are also more keen on leaving France for a vacation than Gen Xers. Relaxation is a top priority for all generations when it comes to vacations, and this kind of trip is again most popular with millennials.

Travelers are also taking these relaxation trips within France, as the many beaches and pockets of nature allow French residents to have an ideal vacation without leaving their home country.

This is an added challenge for travel brands in foreign markets, as even commonly visited destinations in Spain, Italy and the UK need to make a compelling case to French vacationers that an outbound trip is worth taking.

Finding the Right Travel Experience

This starts by highlighting what makes the destination unique. VisitBritain reports that France thinks highly of Britain’s cities, culture, and historic buildings, seeing the country as a great place to attend a sporting event and explore historical sights.

These are all marketable aspects of the British travel experience, and properly illustrating them to France will help improve the destination’s desirability. Culture and history are two factors that influence trips to the United States. While distance makes it a considerably larger trip, the 30 days of vacation available to them makes it easier for American travel brands to push multi-week getaways.

Outbound leisure travelers are reported to enjoy high-quality goods and services when traveling. While this is in line with the somewhat stereotypical idea of France as a nation of sophisticated and hard-to-please consumers, targeting high-spending consumers could be a winning strategy due to this group’s willingness to spend on travel.

No matter which demographics a brand chooses to target, it is clear that even with the challenge of a strong domestic travel industry, France is critical to the international travel market.