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'Like in the days of COVID': France's summer season off to a rocky start amidst rioting

Tourists take pictures in front of the Pyramid in the Louvre Museum courtyard in Paris, France, on June 20, 2022.
Tourists take pictures in front of the Pyramid in the Louvre Museum courtyard in Paris, France, on June 20, 2022. Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Estelle Nilsson-Julien
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As the holiday season begins, how is the world's number one holiday destination coping after a week's unrest?

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As the summer holiday season begins, France has been grappling with a climate of social unrest. 

On 27 June, a 17-year-old boy was shot dead by a police officer in the Paris suburb of Nanterre. Anger soon spread across the country. But how is France's tourism industry coping?

"I have never been scared like that before in France"

"I heard firecrackers, it sounded like gunshots", explains Catherine Cuchet, a French expat who lives in Greece. 

On Saturday afternoon (1 July) she was out shopping in the southeastern city of Lyon when tension began to mount. '‘I have never been scared like that before in France, however I won't be intimidated by it. I am now travelling to Bordeaux, another big city, for the next leg of my trip."

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Charred cars and bus are pictured in Lyon, central France, Friday, June 30, 2023.AP Photo

Others, had to make changes to their holiday plans due to the unrest.

"We got two of the last train seats left out of Marseille. All the trains shut down but we only found out because another tourist warned us", explains Spencer White, an American tourist travelling with his wife.

"We are travelling to Paris now from Lyon, but we feel confident that the rest of our trip will run smoothly."

"€5,000 to €6,000 losses over the weekend"

Some business owners - who bank on the high season to rake in profits - are still recovering from the unrest which peaked last weekend (30 June to 2 July). 

"Saturday was the worst night for our business in the last three years. We lost between €5,000 and €6,000", explains Hugo Neyrand. His restaurant is located in Lyon's old town.

Eva Kandoul - Euronews
Hugo Neyrand manages a restaurant in Lyon's old town.Eva Kandoul - Euronews

Neyrand's restaurant serves up to 600 people daily at peak season. However, the last week has been different "the atmosphere is not normal for this time of the year, cancellations have already begun coming in."

Despite this, the French federation for tourism, ADN Tourisme, insists that the impact of the unrest is beginning to abate. 

"I have been speaking to hotel managers in Marseille who had a slight drop in reservations over the weekend, but it is now stabilising. The violence mainly took place in shops rather than in tourist destinations", explains François de Canson, ADN Tourisme's President. 

Euronews
François de Canson, President of ADN TourismeEuronews

However, de Canson can't help but worry about the image tourists will have of France, "we want to reassure our European and international tourists that France is a hospitable country."

This is not the first wave of social unrest to hit France in 2023. Earlier this year, protests against France's planned pension reform turned violent, making global headlines. Images of piles of rubbish in Paris also went viral on social media following strikes by refuse collectors.

"We did not consider cancelling our trip"

Bernice Rivera, a teacher travelling with a group of students from Porto Rico arrived in Lyon after the events of the weekend. She decided to go ahead with her school trip. 

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"Some of their [the students] parents were worried about coming but I reassured them. In the city, I have been showing my students where there are signs of the protesting and explaining the political situation to them."

In all, more than 3,600 people have been since the unrest across France. The average of detainees is 17 years old, according to the Interior Ministry. The violence left more than 800 law enforcement officers injured. French courts are working overtime to process the arrests, including opening their doors through the weekend.

Karoliina Haaplehto, a Finnish tourist travelling with her boyfriend came to a similar conclusion.

"We were watching the news but we did not consider cancelling our trip because even though there were riots we feel like France is a safe place to travel."

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"We haven’t seen any signs of the riots since arriving and hope it will stay that way!"

Additional sources • Videographer: Eva Kandoul

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