Paris' popularity surges past prepandemic levels

Travelers are saying au revoir to the pandemic and bonjour to Paris vacations again, with demand for the French capital eclipsing even pre-Covid levels. 

Tour operators say that bookings for France and Paris trips this year are well ahead of 2019 and show no sign of slowing down.

Jennifer Tombaugh, president of Tauck, said that bookings for the brand’s 2023 France river cruises, which all include Paris, are up 20% over 2019 and that bookings for Tauck’s Seine cruises specifically are up nearly double.

“In fact, we added an additional riverboat to the Seine to meet increased demand in that region,” Tombaugh said, adding that two Tauck land itineraries that include Paris are up 40% over 2019. “Paris continues to show great demand across both our river cruise and land programs.”

A “Wish List” survey of nearly 30,000 travelers that Globus conducted found that France is the destination where Avalon Waterways and Globus travelers want to go next, said Pamela Hoffee, president of Avalon.

Prepandemic, Paris was consistently among the world’s most visited cities, making its post-pandemic recovery an important milestone in the rebound of city tourism. 

City tourism is on the rebound

A recent World Travel & Tourism Council report found that as borders reopened, many leisure travelers have returned to urban areas after favoring outdoor destinations like national parks and countryside excursions during the height of the pandemic. 

The report called Paris the “world’s most powerful city destination” in 2022, saying its travel and tourism sector generated $36 billion last year. Travel intelligence provider Mabrian reported last year that international tourist travel spend surged 659% in Paris between January and July 2022, with retail, accommodations and restaurants generating the most revenue.

At Avalon, its Seine river cruises, whether they’re centered around Paris or include a couple of nights there, have been very popular. The Seine cruises, which begin and end in Paris, are expected to sell out this year and are followed closely in popularity by its Rhone itineraries, for which most guests fly in and out of Paris.

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“All of Avalon’s France cruises are experiencing record-breaking sales for 2023 — from Paris to Normandy and Burgundy to Provence,” Hoffee said. “Paris is the jewel of most France vacations.”

And in 2024, travel to Paris could be just as hot as it is this year, with the city hosting the next Summer Olympics in 2024. Tombaugh said it’s possible that travelers may be trying to fit in their Parisian getaways sooner rather than later to avoid the expected increase in security as well as traffic restrictions that will be in place in the city center in time for the Olympics.

“With Paris being a bit more challenging to visit in 2024 when it hosts the Olympics, 2023 is clearly a year to see the City of Light,” Tombaugh said. 

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