Paris – the City of Light – is going through dark times.
Visitor numbers are down dramatically following the recent terrorist attacks.
Now the threat of prolonged strikes and scenes of violent clashes between demonstrators and police on the streets have tourism officials warning of serious consequences for the world’s most visited city.
Those who have come are defiant but also nervous.
On the Champs Elysees one visitor from the US state of Arkansas said: “People asked us whether we were going to change our minds and we said ‘No we wouldn’t do that because we can’t let fear control our lives.”
A Canadian tourist gave her view: “It definitely feels a little unsafe being here now, like I was expecting it to feel a lot safer but at the same time I’m not scared or anything.”
US warning for Europe
On Tuesday the US State Department issued alert warnings to Americans of potential terrorist attacks throughout Europe for the entire summer.
“We are alerting US citizens to the risk of potential terrorist attacks throughout Europe, targeting major events, tourist sites, restaurants, commercial centers and transportation,” it said in the travel alert expiring on August 31st.
“The large number of tourists visiting Europe in the summer months will present greater targets for terrorists planning attacks in public locations, especially at large events.”
That came one day after French officials launched a campaign to reassure foreign visitors. At the Eiffel Tower Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo talked up the city as a safe and attractive destination.
Speaking to an audience of tourist industry insiders, diplomats and journalists, the mayor said: “Over the last few months, the last few years, with the problems, the unstable situation around the world, the terrorist threat — which is not only a threat to Paris but to all big cities and important tourists sites around the world — all of that has driven us, accompanied by professionals from the tourist industry all of whom I’d like to thank, to work together to re-launch Paris as a destination.”
The Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, said a solution to the strikes can be found through dialogue, but at the same time France’s largest union called for another big street protest in Paris on June 14.
- Nightly hotel stays in the Paris region were down 9.1 percent in the first quarter from a year ago – national statistics office INSEE
- Hotel stays by Japanese visitors were down 56 percent in the first quarter compared with the same period in 2015; by Russians down 35 percent; by Chinese down 13.9 percent – Paris region tourist board
- About 500,000 people in Ile-de-France have jobs linked to tourism, making it the biggest industry in the region
- The November 2015 terrorist attacks cost French hoteliers an estimated 270 million euros in lost revenue last year; Paris alone accounted for 146 million euros – research firm MKG Group
- Annual revenue per hotel room in Paris is down by around 10 percent so far in 2016 – MKG Group
- About 2.5 million spectators are expected for Euro 2016, which starts on June 10 for a month
- France is the most-visited country in the world, with almost 85 million foreigners last year, around 16 million in Paris alone
- Tourism generates over seven percent of France’s gross domestic product and over 13 percent of the Ile-de-France region, which includes Paris