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France visitor numbers up in 2015 despite attacks
[PARIS] The number of foreign visitors to France grew in 2015 despite jihadist attacks in Paris thanks to a sharp rise in tourists from Asia, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Friday.
France retained its crown as the world's top tourist destination with a total of 84.5 million visitors last year, an increase of 0.9 per cent on 2014.
Mr Ayrault said the attacks on bars, a concert hall and the national stadium on November 13 that killed 130 people "limited this growth, especially in the capital".
He said a "spectacular rise" of 22.7 per cent in the number of tourists from Asia accounted for much of the increase.
"The number of Chinese tourists passed the symbolic bar of two million for the first time, and reached 2.2 million," Mr Ayrault said.
More than half a million Indians also visited France.
In 2014, France reduced the time for visas to be issued to 48 hours for visitors from China, India and Singapore.
That helped to boost the number of visas issued to Chinese visitors by 38 per cent in 2015, and to 48 per cent for Indian tourists.
Visitor numbers from the United States were also up, by more than 15 per cent, but there was a dip of 1.5 per cent in the number of tourists from Europe, especially from Germany and Switzerland.
Visitors from Britain (up 3.3 per cent), Italy and Spain helped compensate for the decrease.
In August last year, then-foreign minister Laurent Fabius said he hoped France would break through the barrier of 85 million visitors in 2015.
Mr Ayrault said Friday his aim "remains to attract 100 million foreign tourists a year to France by 2020".