London and Paris have long been top destinations for visitors from around the world. Both European cities boast illustrious museums and historic sites. London is loved for its theater, cozy pubs and trendy clubs. And Paris is renowned for its cuisine, beautiful architecture and romantic vistas. But which capital city can boast being tops in attracting the most number of overseas visitors?
“For the first time in history, the city [of London] is on course to welcome over 16 million overseas visitors in one year,” the British capital’s tourism agency London & Partners said in a statement Thursday. Tourist numbers increased by 12 percent in the British capital in the first nine months of 2013. The numbers of visitors are projections based on passenger surveys.
“It’s official: London is the most popular destination for tourists in the world,” wrote the local Evening Standard. But journalists on both sides of the Channel began to compare tourism figures for London and Paris, reports France24.
The headline on the website of right-wing French daily Le Figaro was more explicit: “London dethrones Paris.” The story went on, “Although criteria may vary, Paris welcomed 15.9 million foreign visitors in 2012.”
But an official at Paris City Hall said the newspaper got it wrong because it compared tourist figures in central Paris with Greater London, a larger area, France24 reports.
Tourist figures for the city of Paris do not include attractions in the wider Paris region such as the Palaces of Versailles and Fontainebleau.
Some question whether this tourism numbers spat is politically motivated. The article in the conservative Le Figaro appears as Paris prepares for mayoral and city council elections, scheduled for March.
The center-right UMP party in France points to Conservative Party-led London as being a much more dynamic city, in contrast with the decline they claim Paris is suffering under the left-wing government.
While the visitors numbers are extremely close, London is basking in the glow of the successful 2012 Olympic Games and an improvement to its tourism infrastructure. London's tourist boom continued after the Olympics with the added allure of the royal baby Prince George last year.