People, Travel

France Could Be Hit by Anti-Tourism Protests

France's tourism industry attracted almost 83 million visitors in 2016.France's tourism industry attracted almost 83 million visitors in 2016.

As anti-tourism movements gain ground across Europe and anarchists in Spain taking to the streets to express their anger at mass tourism so prevalent across large swathes of the country, could France be hit by the anti-tourism bug next?

The Local recently reported that France's tourism industry has just started recovering after it saw a dip after the 2015 terrorist attacks, attracting almost 83 million visitors in 2016. This makes it the world's most-visited country.

But with large parts of the country, particularly those areas around the coast, seeing their populations inflate massively over the summer months, how much longer will it be able to cope with the huge numbers flocking to its towns and villages each year?

According to the most recent figures from France's number-crunching agency Insee, more than 6,000 towns see their populations double during the tourist season, causing potential issues from traffic jams and congestion to longer waiting times at doctors' and restaurants.

Numerous towns and villages along the French coast have more than 10 times as many beds for tourists as they do inhabitants.

Germe in the Hautes-Pyrenees department has the highest ratio of tourists to residents in France.

Home to just 41 permanent residents, Germe can accommodate more than 6,000 visitors in hotels, hostels and B&Bs.

This means that at full capacity, the town's population is multiplied by more than 150, with 96% of all houses in the area being second homes.

And it's not only smaller towns feeling the strain of tourism.

In Cannes, for example, the population can triple during the summer, while the 26,000-strong population of Agde can multiple by a factor of nine when all the hotels in the town are full. In the latter, second homes account for 70% of all houses in the area.

And evidence that the locals are getting sick of the situation is starting to appear.

In Biarritz on the southwestern coast, stickers urging Parisians to "clear off" were plastered across the town this summer.

With so many dwellings used for tourist purposes—whether by being converted into hotels or rented out via accommodation-sharing sites such as Airbnb—rental prices are being pushed up for locals.

It's this "Airbnb effect" that has pushed tensions to boiling point in locations such as Venice and Barcelona. In both those cities, locals have protested for years about being priced out of their homes, prompting authorities to crack down on mass tourism and introduce limits on new tourist accommodations.

And France could soon follow suit.

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