London and Paris: tourism ‘metropolises’ par excellence

Mariano Mantel, Flickr, CC

London and Paris are not only Western Europe’s largest metropolitan areas but also the continent’s most visited cities. Both cities share close historic and cultural ties and both cities have in common that their modern history is intimately bound up with the history of tourism and vice versa. With regards to present-day tourism and the context within which it takes place, London and Paris also share important similarities. By far the two most popular cities in Europe in terms of visitor numbers and total bed nights, both cities not only attract tens of millions of leisure and business tourists each year but also have in common that they are characterised exceptionally diverse tourism systems that are becoming ever more complex as new forms of tourism emerge. But they also differ in equally important ways, providing exciting opportunities for comparative research and mutual learning. The centre of the Paris conurbation, ‘la ville de Paris’, is an area of only 105 km² compared to the 319 km² of Inner London. At the same time, the population of Paris is much more dense (22,500 inhabitants per square kilometre in Paris compared to 8,600 in Inner London) while London is characterised by a more polycentric and less compact urban structure than Paris. Tourism, accordingly, also tends to be more concentrated in the French capital than in London even if the development of Disneyland Paris and other attractions have also led to the emergence of significant tourism centralities beyond the confines of Paris ‘intra muros’. Significant differences also exist with respect to the two cities and regions’ governance and politics, allowing for fascinating insights into the way in which tourism is governed and directed.