Number of foreign visitors to France falls sharply

August 19, 2016 9:42 AM EDT

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PARIS (Reuters) - The number of foreign tourists fell sharply in France in the second quarter of the year, official data showed on Friday, during a period marked by street protests, strikes and poor weather and after November's Islamist militant attacks.

A rebound in the number of tourists during the summer is unlikely after 85 people were killed in Nice when a gunman drove a truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day on July 14, an attack, claimed by Islamic State, that prompted a wave of holiday cancellations.

The number of nightly stays in France by foreign tourists fell by 8.5 percent in the three months to end-June compared to the same period a year ago. French tourists were also less keen to visit their own country, with figures down 2.9 percent.

The decline in the second quarter was a blow to tourism professionals, after figures had started to recover in the first quarter following the November attacks in which 130 people were killed by gunmen and suicide bombers in and around Paris.

Nightly stays in Parisian hotels were particularly badly hit, with 12.9 percent fewer foreign tourists than a year ago, the INSEE statistics office said.

Scenes of uncollected rubbish piling up in the streets of Paris, riot police firing tear gas, canceled trains and picket lines were widely reported by international media in the weeks leading up to the start of the Euro 2016 soccer tournament in June.

The unseasonably cold and wet weather may also have deterred tourists interested in camping, INSEE said. Stays in camping sites were down 6.8 percent.

France's weather office said the spring was one of the wettest in 50 years, with 70 percent more rainfall than normal in the Paris region.

France is the world's most visited country and tourism accounts for 7-8 percent of its economy.

(Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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