France Strives for 100 Million Visitors by 2020

Government travel marketer plans to drive growth around tourism clusters

The number one global destination in terms of tourist arrivals, France welcomed 84.5 million international visitors in 2015, which was a record. Although numbers were down slightly in 2016 due to the tragic events in Paris and Nice, the French government aims to host an ambitious 100 million visitors by 2020

While France’s tourism success is due in part to its iconic image internationally, current and future growth will also depend on the successful implementation of promotional material and professional training that aims to create a real “desire for France” among even the most demanding travellers. For this, the French government has created what it terms pôles d’excellence (promotional themes based around tourism clusters), and destination contracts, which together aim to promote key internal destinations that add value to the overall offering.


The purpose of Pôles d’excellence is to highlight the optimal and diverse ways to experience and enjoy specific destinations. A c c o r d i n g l y, A t o u t France, the government’s destination marketing organisation, is promoting “theme holiday” tourism clusters as part of its official promotional activity. These clusters include cruising; wine tourism; eco-tourism; gastronomy; iconic cultural heritage; night tourism; and mountain tourism, among others.

Preceding thi s new push, Atout France has already been promoting its destination brands for several years, launching successful global brands like Champagne, Bordeaux, Alps Mont Blanc, Provence and Biarritz whose renowned reputation abroad sometimes exceeds that of the France itself.

By offering visitors a multitude of experiences, 16 established destination brands have been a key promotional focus for Atout France. These include skiing or hiking in the Alps; staying at a winery in Bordeaux or Burgundy and becoming initiated in oenology; golfing in Biarritz and the Basque country; relaxing with a wellness holiday in Brittany; discovering the monuments and museums of France’s cities; attending a festival or major sporting event; or discovering regional specialties and dining at the table of a “starred” chef.


Building on the momentum of this experience and success, Atout France has created destination contracts that aim to develop new territories and thus attract international visitors with new destinations. There are currently 22 destinations contracts that are especially designed to help professionals respond to the growing expectations of their clients for authenticity, new experiences within the destination itself, and to reveal the different faces of France.


A destination contract also aims to bring public and private stakeholders together from the same destination in order to pool human and financial resources, and to harness economies of scale. It simultaneously covers the structuring and development of tourism, the quality of hospitality, promotion in one or several markets, as well as generating collective intelligence on a specific tourism cluster.


These promotional tools benefit greatly from the booster effect of france. fr, the internet portal of destination France that was created in 2015. A rich showcase of French tourism offerings, the site allows users from around the world to find all relevant information on France’s plethora of destinations – all presented in 17 languages used in 31 markets. The site highlights destination brands and destinations contracts; discovery themes including culture, gastronomy, shopping and well-being; major events that bring a destination to life; and of course the practical information on travelling to and around France.

Atout France concurrently collaborates very closely with embassies in all its markets, allowing it to conduct promotions in 70 countries. To this end, Atout France performs around 3,000 actions annually to promote its destinations and theme holidays. Meanwhile, the peak destination marketing body works closely with travel professionals to organise workshops that showcase destinations, and during which Atout France promotes meetings between French suppliers and travel agents from around the world. As Atout France ramps up its Pôles d’excellence promotional strategy in the coming months and years, visitor numbers to France are set for exponential growth