Tourism in Paris is recovering fast, the French government has confirmed, after hotel and airline bookings slumped following the 13 November attacks that killed 130 people.
In another optimistic note, the way some Australian agents handled the crisis for their clients is drawing praise.
Daily occupancy at hotels in Paris fell 24% on average in the week after the attacks, according to figures issued on Wednesday by the Office du Tourisme et des Congres de Paris. The decline had eased to 16% by the start of this week, French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron said.
New international flight bookings to Paris plunged by 27% for the week of 14-21 November 2015 compared to the same week in 2014, travel and booking information firm ForwardKeys revealed a couple of days ago. Reports from Paris say airline booking cancellations have now returned to more normal levels.
Meanwhile, reports are emerging of the efficiency with which some Australian travel agents handled the Paris crisis for their clients. The reports echo similar recent cases in which clients who booked through agents have fared much better during travel disruptions than those who booked direct. This was noted during a Lufthansa strike earlier this month, when travel agents working round the clock managed to get their clients to their destinations with little to no disruption, while travellers who had booked with OTAs, or direct with airlines, were left sitting at European airports, stranded and disgruntled.
In the Paris terrorism case, the speed at which Australian company TravelManagers moved into action stands out.
TravelManagers’ executive general manager, Michael Gazal, says his company’s focus in such an event is to provide the firm’s personal travel managers (PTMs) with as much information as possible, as quickly as possible, in order to track down and ensure the safety of any clients who may have been affected.
In the Paris case, Gazal says the National Partnership Office (NPO), which puts crisis plans into action, was alerted to the situation in Paris within two hours of the first attack taking place. This was while events were still unfolding at the Bataclan theatre.
“Less than an hour later, we had provided our entire PTM network with a comprehensive Client Location Report, detailing all clients that were currently in Paris or would be arriving into any point in Paris between 1 and 20 November,” Gazal said.
In many cases, that information included the name, phone number and address of the client’s accommodation arrangements, which Gazal says further simplified the task of contacting clients.
Throughout the weekend after the attack, Gazal says the NPO continued to communicate any updates to its PTMs by email, SMS, Intranet and TravelManagers’ Closed User Group Page on Facebook.
In the end, 25 of TravelManagers’ PTMs had a total of 46 clients who were affected by the Paris terror attacks. Once those details had been established, PTMs were able to contact the affected clients to adjust travel arrangements, keep them advised regarding airline announcements, insurance company advisory notices and other details impacting on their journeys.
“It’s a sad reality in today’s world that we need to be prepared for the worst case scenario, be it a terrorist attack or a natural disaster,” Gazal commented.
“We have very clear plans and systems in place so that we can swing into action immediately and get on with the task of providing our PTMs with the appropriate client lists.”
In Paris meanwhile, airline booking cancellation levels are also returning to normal this week from a slump immediately after the attacks, the Office du Tourisme et des Congres de Paris reported yesterday.
“It’s picking up. We are on a seasonal market, so it is crucial that it picks up quickly for these operators that are open only for a few weeks during the holidays,” Macron said.
The optimism isn’t universal. Christian Navet, president of the Paris-Ile de France section of French hotel federation UMIH, says he has not noticed any recovery.
“We had cancellations right after the attacks, but now it’s just people not coming,” he told Airwise.com. “Hotels are empty. All eyes are now on Christmas.”
Written by Peter Needham