Although ultimately a victor in World Wars I and II, France suffered extensive losses in its empire, wealth, manpower, and rank as a dominant nation-state. Nevertheless, France today is one of the most modern countries in the world and is a leader among European nations. Since 1958, it has constructed a presidential democracy resistant to the instabilities experienced in earlier parliamentary democracies. In recent years, its reconciliation and cooperation with Germany have proved central to the economic integration of Europe, including the introduction of a common exchange currency, the euro, in January 1999. At present, France is at the forefront of efforts to develop the EU’s military capabilities to supplement progress toward an EU foreign policy.
France is in the midst of transition from a well-to-do modern economy that has featured extensive government ownership and intervention to one that relies more on market mechanisms. The government has partially or fully privatized many large companies, banks, and insurers, and has ceded stakes in such leading firms as Air France, France Telecom, Renault, and Thales. It maintains a strong presence in some sectors, particularly power, public transport, and defense industries. The telecommunications sector is gradually being opened to competition. France’s leaders remain committed to a capitalism in which they maintain social equity by means of laws, tax policies, and social spending that reduce income disparity and the impact of free markets on public health and welfare. The government in 2006 focused on introducing measures that attempt to boost employment through increased labor market flexibility; however, the population has remained opposed to labor reforms, hampering the government’s ability to revitalize the economy. The tax burden remains one of the highest in Europe (nearly 50% of GDP in 2005). The lingering economic slowdown and inflexible budget items probably pushed the budget deficit above the eurozone’s 3%-of-GDP limit in 2006; unemployment hovers near 9%. With at least 75 million foreign tourists per year, France is the most visited country in the world and maintains the third largest income in the world from tourism.
France attracted over 75 million tourists in 2004 (surpassing its population), making it the most popular tourist destination in the world. Recently however, its popularity has been diminishing with the increased convenience of cheaper countries in Eastern Europe. France is one of the classics among tourist countries. It offers mountain ranges, coastlines like in Brittany or along the Mediterranean Sea, cities with a rich cultural heritage, châteaux (castles) like Versailles, countryside, vineyards in Burgundy, Tourism.
- Allexperts France Travel Q&A – Volunteer travelers answer questions about tourism in France.
- AOL Travel – France – Travel guides by city include hotels, flights, car rentals and vacation packages.
- Armchair France – Includes recommendations for places to visit, a list of books, music and videos, a small selection of recipes, monthly updates from Uzès, and details of sporting events.
- France Travel Guide – Travel guide from About.com with information on specific locations, hotels and restaurants.
- France Voyage – Offering regional information about the landscape, culture, monuments, architecture, gastronomy and history.
- French at a Touch – Information on places in France and links to francophone sites.
- GoSki France – French ski resort profiles, news, skier and snowboarder reviews, hotspots, activities, travel services, lodging, weather reports and snow conditions.
- Guide Web – Directory of accommodation, activities, tourism and traditions covering Provence and the Ardèche. Includes pictures, maps and search feature.
- iExplore – France – Adventure and experiential travel group provides a guide on the country and its history, events, places to go and activities with tours, photos and other tourist information.
- Lonely Planet – France – Comprehensive facts and advice for traveling along with background material on the culture and history of the country.
- Southern France Guide – Commercial tourist guide for the South. Includes details of properties and regional information.
- Terroirs of France – Guide to the regions of France, their culture and traditions.
- Travel.State.Gov – France and Monaco – Offers travel information including Quick Facts, embassies and consulates, entry and exit requirements, safety and security, local laws, health, transportation and Fact Sheet. From the U.S. Department of State.
- ViaFrance – Database of more than 3000 events including festivals, feasts, fair trade, celebrations and concerts.
- Western France Tourist Board – Tourism information covering Normandy, Brittany the Loire Valley, Western Loire and Cognac Country.
- World Travel Guide – France – Tourist and business travel information with facts on climate, visa, health, passport, currency and customs requirements.