France retains No. 1 tourist destination title

French food and wine trump terror concerns

France retained its position as the world's favourite tourism destination last year, the United Nation's World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) said on Wednesday, defying concerns over terror attacks.

The US came second followed closely by Spain, according to annual figures that the Madrid-based UNWTO normally announces in January, but which were delayed this year.

But although France stayed on top by welcoming 82.6 million visitors last year, that was more than a 2 per cent drop from the previous year.

Repeated terror attacks had sparked concerns that tourism would drop substantially in France, known especially for its gastronomy and wine, but the data indicated most visitors have not been put off.

The number of tourists visiting the US was also down, falling 3 per cent to 75.61 million, which saw the country narrowly maintain its second position, as Spain experienced a 10 per cent jump in visitors to 75.56 million.

The latter's tourism industry enjoyed a boom partly because people who normally go to Turkey, Egypt or north Africa for holidays, decided instead to chase the sun in Spain, citing fears of unrest.

China was fourth in the ranking with under 60 million visitors, and Italy came in fifth.

The classification is calculated according to the number of visitors who spend at least one night in a country.

But if the money earned from tourists is taken into account, the US came a resounding first with US$206 billion (S$280 billion) made last year, the UNWTO said.

Spain was second with around US$60 billion, followed by Thailand and China.

Britain, meanwhile, fell from third to seventh place at US$34 billion due in part to the depreciation of the pound compared to the dollar after the Brexit vote to leave the European Union, added the UNWTO. - AFP

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