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Just why does anybody bother going to dreary Paris?

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EiffeltowerALAMYI’m not being funny, but why do so many people from around the world want to visit France?

I’ve just spent a couple of nights in Paris and, at a rough guess, I would estimate that over half the people at my hotel came from the Far East (mostly Japan).

In the international tourism league table, France sits at the top with 76m tourist ‘arrivals’, followed by the US (57m), China (56m), Spain (53m), Italy (44m) and then the UK with a comparatively feeble 28m.

Paris is a good place for a weekend. But honestly, tell the truth – is it really two and a half times better than London?

Obviously not.

So what brings so many people to the French capital?

It can’t be for the warm and sunny welcome they get from the Parisians (who are about as welcoming as Victor Meldrew on his grumpiest day).

Is it for the food? Even Parisians admit that London has a much better choice of good and affordable places to eat. Parisian cuisine is stuck in some sub-Escoffier time warp.

Is it for the tourist attractions? There’s the Eiffel Tower and the Mona Lisa and… er… well, nobody visits Paris for its wealth of fantastic tourist attractions.

Is it for the shopping? Yes! The groups of Asian visitors seem to spend the bulk of their time being herded around luxury stores.

Paris has an embarras de richesses of luxury shops (as they say in these parts).

I would imagine that Paris has more Chanel and Louis Vuitton stores than London has Tesco Metros (great if you want to buy a £30,000 dress, not so great if you’re after a pint of milk).

At the end of each day, the coachloads of Japanese tourists returned to my hotel weighed down under the handbags and the gladrags (that their poor old Grandads had to sweat to buy them).

Don’t all these people rushing to Paris know that we sell handbags and designerclothes in London in nicer shops, with friendlier staff and at much better prices?

I can’t help thinking that as far as international tourism is concerned, we might be missing out in a very big way…

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