The tourists are flocking back to Paris. After a catastrophic year in 2016, the French capital saw a surge in the number of visitors in the first six months of this year. One official said the city was on track to welcome more tourists over the whole year than ever before.
The Paris region registered 16.4 million arrivals between January and June, the tourist board said on Tuesday – representing the highest increase in 10 years. The 10.2 per cent increase was driven by a near 15 per cent rise in foreign tourists.
The terrorist attacks in Paris in January and November 2015, and Nice in July 2016 – which killed a total of over 200 people – had a devastating effect last year. But now more and more people are travelling again – with Americans leading the way.
“In a lot of places it seems like there’s more terrorist attacks around the world, but I think that if you stop travelling just because of that, that’s what they want, you know. I think we don’t want to live in fear,” said Alan, a young visitor from Indiana. “I think you should keep travelling despite what terrorist attacks may be happening around the world.”
Britain is the only nation to send fewer visitors to Paris in the early part of this year. Tourist authorities estimate the decline of 1.7 percent is due to the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the fall in the value of the pound. But officials say Asians as well as Americans are thinking again about travelling after staying away.
“If the Chinese, the Japanese, and so many international customers veered away from our destination last year, it was because they were highly sensitive to questions of security and were afraid, (asking) ‘is Paris a safe city?’”, said Frederic Valletoux, President of the Paris Region Tourist Board.
He added that a strong July and August, and good bookings for September meant the region could see up to 34 million tourist arrivals this year compared with 30 million in 2016 and 32 million in 2015.
Paris expects another boost of confidence given the likelihood that it will host the Olympics in 2024. But there are no premature celebrations. The city knows that atrocities such as last week’s attacks in Spain could have a negative impact on tourism in other European cities.
Valletaux told the news conference it was important not to get carried away. “Now will Barcelona have an impact on other destinations like Paris? It’s hard to say. It’s Europe. The international situation remains turbulent and terrorism a daily threat,” he said.
Tourism generates over 7 percent of France’s national income and in the Paris region about half a million jobs are linked to the industry.