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France Fiddles Figures?

TinT (Truth in Travel) Rides Again!

Statement: With 3.22mn American visitors in 2014, France has once again overtaken the UK, which counted 3.04mn visitors from the US. Source: Atout France (AF) which, despite that strange name, is France’s DMO.

TinT doubts France counts more than the UK. We cannot find precise data, but much evidence indicating AF is wrong. And overall wondering why AF is going to such extremes to ‘prove’ it is No1. Isn’t a charge of amateurism, ridicule risk enough, or is it more important that local politicians (presumably the real target of this disinformation) believe France is No1?

There is a clue in AF’s statement. It counts US nationals, and compares that figure with arrivals from the US in the UK. If an American living in London visited Paris he would be included in France’s ‘America’ count. In other words, the figures are not directly comparable – albeit good enough for an unofficial observation.

Statement: France has been the leader in Europe for American visitors since 2011.

TinT: AF says that in 2014 France overtook the UK ‘again’. But it also says it has been leader ‘since 2011’. Surely that indicates the overtaking took place in 2011? France cannot overtake the UK every year.

Now for the technical points:

  1. AF credits a study by Trans Atlantic Report for its findings. On its website, TAR’s ‘latest traffic trends’ are for October 2013 (later ones, noted as November 2013, can be obtained on application). And the ‘Top Events 2014’ section of its website promises the visitor that the information is ‘Coming soon’. So we do not understand where these France findings are.
  1. AF says its 3.22mn figure is based on ticket sales to France of US travel agencies by ARC members (ARC would give us no information), overnights by US nationals in Paris (we presume in hotels; AF does not clarify), and overall travel US-Europe (from the US government, which usually gives only air travel data). Once again, all this means that AF is not comparing like with like.
  1. The UK data that AF uses is straightforward – arrival of US residents in the UK.
  1. AF lists arrivals in the ‘Euro zone’ but includes two destinations that are outside – Switzerland, UK. It lists these as arrivals from the US – France 3.22mn (+4%), UK 3.04mn (+8%), Spain 1.22mn (+2%), Ireland 1.17mn (+12.9%), Switzerland 0.75mn (+3.7%). AF gives no source for this other data, and contradicts its earlier comment by noting that these US arrivals in France are from the US, and not US nationals.
  1. Air passengers between the US and the top three country pairs, according to US data shows UK 17.9mn, Germany 10.6mn, France 6.7mn. Data from civil aviation bodies in those three Europe markets are similar – UK 18.3mn, Germany 10.4mn, France 6.5mn.
  1. Germany’s DMO says in 2013 there were 2.6mn arrivals from the US in the UK, 2.4mn in Italy, 2.0mn in France, 1.8mn in Germany.
  1. The UK’s DMO says in 2013 there were 2.79mn arrivals from the US in the UK. Spend is put at US$3.92bn (£2.55bn), which calculates to US$1405-per-visitor, and US$178-per-visitor-per-day.
  1. AF says in 2013 there were 3.1mn arrivals from the US in France. Spend is put at US$2.22bn (€2.0bn), which calculates to (only) US$718-per-visitor, and (only) US$84-per-visitor-per-day. Something looks wrong with the data. Again, it looks like that claimed visitor total; it is too high.
  1. So how many visitors from the US does France really count? We estimate 2.15mn in 2014.

The Fox

Remember, I’ll be famous after I’m dead.