About 200 travel agency owners from around the world were in Paris at the weekend showing their support for the French capital a year after the terrorist attacks, as figures show tourism to France and Paris is still struggling.
The gathering, the annual chairman’s meeting of the Virtuoso group, was attended mainly by agents from the US, Canada and Latin America. It was scheduled before the 13 November 2015 attacks in and around Paris and is now being used to help support French tourism, with much use of Instagram and Facebook.
Fearful tourists are still staying away from France, according to latest figures.
In the Paris area, tourism revenue is expected to dive by EUR 1.5 billion this year. The Louvre, one of the city’s top attractions, has seen a 20% plunge in visitors and other tourist sites have been similarly affected.
In an interview with French news agency AFP, the Paris region tourism chief, Frederic Valletoux, said the impact of the attacks, carried out by jihadists working for the Islamist terrorist group ISIS, was “lasting and completely unprecedented”.
He added that many small businesses were “on their knees”.
The attacks, which included the murder of 89 people at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, had an immediate and expected dampening effect on tourism. The surprise is how long the downturn is lasting. Other ISIS atrocities in France and elsewhere, including the Bastille Day jihadist truck rampage in Nice that killed 86 people, have further spooked would-be visitors. A recent spate of robberies by thieves targeting Asian visitors has not helped.
Last week, the French government released a EUR 42 million plan to boost security in tourist precincts such as the Louvre. EUR 10 million has already been set aside for tourism promotion, with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls admitting that “tourism in France is going through a difficult period”.
The government’s goal of attracting 100 million foreign visitors in 2020 (compared with 85 million last year) is still in place though the flow is currently in the wrong direction. Tourist arrivals to France so far this year, for the 10 months from January to October, have fallen 8.1%.
Written by Peter Needham