There are no trash cans on the Champs-Elysees. Paris’ department stores, as well as shops and restaurants across the country, are closed on Sundays. And pickpockets swarm the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.
But now, after years of casually riding a reputation for stunning monuments and world-class food, the French are starting to talk about tourism as an economic benefit — and one they need to do more to capitalize on. This is a sea change in a country that has long prided itself on not doing anything as gauche as catering to visitors.
The numbers show that something is amiss. With the draws of Paris, Alpine skiing and some of the ritziest Mediterranean resorts, France has been the most-visited country for every year there are statistics in the World Bank database, welcoming 83 million foreign tourists in 2012. But it has never sat atop the list of places where visitors spend the most. There, it has been No. 3, behind the U.S. and Spain, for several years.