French tour operators fear a “catastrophic” plunge in business after an order was apparently given to Chinese travel agents to stop selling trips to the country.
France is the most popular European holiday destination for Chinese tourists and some 700,000 flocked to the country last year, with Paris, the Cote d’Azur and the Loire chateau region the most popular destinations.
But many canceled their trips after demonstrators disrupted the Olympic flame’s passage through Paris last month, and travel agents in Beijing said they had now been advised to remove France from their destinations from this week.
“It is a catastrophic year for Chinese tourism in France,” Philippe Yao, director of the China Comfort Travel agency in France, said on Thursday.
He said his agency had already had several cancelations following the pro-Tibet demonstrations in Paris and warned of “serious economic consequences” for the sector.
Among those who canceled was a group of 35 Chinese couples traveling to celebrate their weddings in a French chateau.
“The advice to discourage Chinese tourists from visiting France hasn’t been officially confirmed, but it is being applied now by the travel agencies,” said Pierre Shi, director of the China Travel Service agency.
French authorities are trying to confirm that “the Beijing tourism administration apparently issued a recommendation” to travel agents to stop selling trips to France, a diplomatic source said on Thursday.
“Chinese tourists who have already received their visas and paid for their trips won’t cancel. The flow of visitors will likely drop in the months to come,” said Paul Roll, director of the Paris Tourism Office.
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