New Delhi, April 25 : France tops the European destinations for Indian tourists, with the number of travellers from this country expected to cross 8 lakh as of 2018, French Ambassador Alexandre Ziegler said here on Thursday.
He said over 7 lakh Indian tourists visited France in 2017, twice the number as compared to 2014.
Visa applications over the past five years registered an increase of over 180 per cent, the envoy said at a seminar here on tourism cooperation between India and France.
In 2018, the number of visa applications grew by 15 per cent as compared to 2017, underpinned by an over 43 per cent increase in applications from south India (Consulate of Puducherry), he said.
Noting a "striking upsurge", Ziegler said it demonstrates that France is ever growing in popularity and that the country is "now the number 1 European destination for Indian tourists".
Describing it as "just the beginning of a trend", he said: "We are very honoured to witness this upward trend and it is a priority to facilitate Indian tourism in France."
He said since 2015, the Embassy has been issuing visas within 48 hours.
"In fact, last December, the French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs himself highlighted that our priority was to build up French expertise on welcoming Indian tourists in France," the Ambassador said.
A seminar with French professionals will be held soon in Paris, with a special focus on welcoming MICE (Meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) trips and Indian weddings, he said.
"Indeed, professional trips account for over 30 per cent of Indian tourists and we know that France has all it takes to attract more Indian weddings," he added.
Referring to last week's fire incident at Notre-Dame Cathedral of Paris, in which one of the most visited monuments in France was badly damaged, he said many Indian people expressed their solidarity and sadness on seeing the iconic building burn.
"I was moved to see that one of my favourite monuments in Paris was also deeply loved by people in India. It also highlighted that Paris is a much-loved destination for Indian people, and others across the world," the envoy said.