Speaking to TTG at WTM London, Francois Navarro, managing director for the Paris region, blamed the weak pound, Brexit and the popularity of Spain, Portugal and London for the decline in numbers.
Paris welcomed 908,000 UK visitors in the first semester of 2017, compared with 923,000 visitors year-on-year in 2016.
“The UK is a big target for us. Money is the first reason for lower numbers, as the euro is stronger than this time last year. Brexit doesn’t explain everything, but it is another reason. We are also in real competition with London for visitors,” said Navarro.
Despite the fall in UK figures, “all other markets” were up for Paris. Visitor numbers reached their highest levels in 10 years in the first semester of 2017, with 16.4 million hotel arrivals – marking a 10% year-on-year increase.
The region’s hotels also welcomed 1.5 million more tourists in the first semester of 2017, with an increase in tourist revenue of nearly €1.1 billion.
Navarro said the figures proved that Paris was “back in business” after arrivals plummeted in 2016 following the November 2015 Paris terror attacks.
“We lost 1.5million tourists in 2016, when lots of people cancelled their Paris trips. Now people are finally coming back to Paris. Security is still an issue, but people are starting to understand that what happened in Paris can happen anywhere,” said Navarro.
The US market was currently particularly strong for Paris, with a 20% rise in numbers compared to 2016. Emerging markets included South Korea, Indonesia and Japan.
Navarro said appealing to UK visitors remained high on the agenda for 2018.
“We ran a marketing campaign with Eurostar and easyJet this year to appeal to British travellers, and we are planning another campaign next year,” he said.
The region hopes hosting the Ryder Cup next year will lead to a bump in UK arrivals, with 80,000 visitors from around the world predicted to attend the golfing event.