Paris | Already suffering from the impact of last year’s jihadist attacks, tourism in Paris faces a fresh challenge from the recent wave of violent strikes and protests, tourism bosses warned today.
Hotel bookings by Japanese visitors were down 56 per cent in the first quarter of the year compared to the same period in 2015, while Russians were down by 35 per cent, the city’s tourist board said. Chinese tourists had been a major driver of growth last year — reaching a new record of 1.2 million — but their numbers had also dropped by 13.9 per cent.
The start of 2016 is still feeling the disastrous consequences of the attacks in 2015, the tourism board said in a statement. France is the world’s most visited country, but tourists have been scared off by the November attacks in the capital that left 130 people dead and the January 2015 killings at Charlie Hebdo magazine and a Jewish supermarket.
While the atmosphere in Paris had returned to normal in recent months, an outburst of social unrest over controversial labour reforms has once again put doubts in tourists’ minds. Three months of student and union-led protests have descended into violent clashes between demonstrators and police around the country.
The scenes of guerrilla-type action in the middle of Paris, beamed around the world, reinforce the feeling of fear and misunderstanding, the tourist board said. Unions have threatened to disrupt transport for the millions of visitors to the Euro 2016 football championship which kicks off across France on June 10.
There is still time to save the tourist season by putting an end to these blockades that are being shown the world over, said Frederic Valletoux, head of the Paris tourist board. It’s the entire tourism and leisure network that is penalised. The challenge for employees is immense because 500,000 of them depend on the sector in the Paris region, he added.