PARIS, Feb 7 (Reuters) - The number of foreign tourists visiting France rose in the fourth quarter of 2016, official data showed on Tuesday, confirming a gradual rebound in a sector that has been hit by a wave of Islamist militant attacks.
The number of nightly stays in France by foreign tourists rose 2.9 percent in the three months to end-December compared to the same period a year ago, as the traditional Christmas and year-end festivities gave a boost to the industry.
Nightly stays in Paris hotels were up 4.5 percent in the fourth quarter, with 3.3 percent more foreign tourists than a year ago, added the INSEE statistics office.
The rise confirmed recent industry reports of a gradual recovery from a dip in foreign tourism caused by militant Islamist attacks in France, which had impacted tourism numbers during the Christmas 2015 season.
Nevertheless, France’s status as the world’s most visited country suffered a new blow last week after a man armed with machetes attacked a French soldier near the entrance to the Paris Louvre museum, in what President Francois Hollande said was a terrorist attack.
The country’s presidential election takes place in April and May, with security and fears of terrorism among key issues.
More than 230 people have died in militant attacks in France during the past two years, including 86 in last year’s July 14 national holiday celebrations in the Riviera resort of Nice.
France, which is looking to boost its weak economic growth, depends heavily on tourism, which generates 7.4 percent of national gross domestic product and employs 2 million people. (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)