Mon, Aug 01, 2016 - Page 14 News List

French tourism industry hit hard by terror attacks

AIR TRAVEL, HOTELS:Reservations for flights are down 20 percent since the Nice attack, while bookings for five-star hotels in Paris are down by 45 percent

AFP, PARIS

France’s already battered tourism industry took a further hit late last month during what should have been the height of the season as foreign visitors stayed away after 84 people were killed in Nice on Bastille Day.

In the week following the July 14 attack on the Riviera city’s Promenade des Anglais boulevard, arrivals by air slumped 8.8 percent compared to the same period last year, according to data from ForwardKeys, which daily sifts more than 14 million air travel transactions.

The sector has been struggling for months, not least since the Nov. 13 attacks last year in and around Paris that claimed 130 lives.

Between January and July 10 arrivals to France by air were down 5.8 percent, and down 11 percent to Paris. Flight reservations to France following the Nice attack were down 20 percent.

France is the world’s top tourist destination and the tourism sector accounts for about 9 percent of GDP.

France had hoped the Euro 2016 football championships would give tourism a shot in the arm — but has been disappointed.

“Nice wiped out the Euro football effect, which went off well in security terms and polished France’s image,” said Frederic Valletoux, chairman of the Ile de France regional tourist authority, which covers the Paris region and its environs.

After Nice, French President Francois Hollande extended the state of emergency “which doesn’t help us — we continue to see customer numbers contract, especially Americans and Asians,” Valletoux said.

A consolation is that “French clients seem to be staying firm,” he said, even if Herve Becam, chairman of the main hoteliers’ union Umih, said that overall “the trend is not good.”

The Cote d’Azur area around Nice saw hotel occupancy rates fall between 5 and 10 percent through to latest figures running to last week.

And in Paris, Umih expects a fall of nearer 20 percent, hitting restaurants as well as hotels.

Other regions have also been hit, including Normandy, where a priest was killed by two militants on Tuesday.

Revenue per room for five-star Parisian establishments had been up 9 percent before the Nice attacks, but by July 28 was 45 percent below the norm, says Umih’s Prestige offshoot — which adds that Chinese demand has been sorely affected.

“What is new is the disaffection of Chinese clients for Paris and France,” Umih Prestige said, adding that some business congresses scheduled for the second half of the year had been cancelled.

Prior to Nice, last month had been looking strong but “the July 14 attack brusquely pushed us down 5 percent,” says Alain de Mendonca, chairman of travel firm Karavel-Promovacances, adding that “people are afraid to go to the airport, to take a plane.”

Sector specialist Protourisme believes last month’s hotel stay data will come in 4 percent down on last year.

“But it could have been worse,” said Protourisme chairman Didier Arino, not least given that much of France suffered weeks of unseasonable weather while Air France was hit by a strike at the start of Euro 2016 — and is now in the midst of another one.

Germany has also seen a spate of recent attacks, but has not to date seen suffered a wave of cancellations, a spokeswoman for the German national tourist board said on Friday.

Asked about potential impact, she said “we’re in close contact with our representations abroad and we’ve been watching the reactions — there hasn’t been any sign of a reaction.”

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