France is having a terrible year for tourism
IT SHOULD have been a good year for French tourism. After all, as host of the Euros, the continent’s quadrennial international football tournament, it had the perfect chance to showcase its many charms. Instead, 2016 has been a disaster. Visits to the world’s most popular tourist destination have fallen by over 8% in the year to October, according to Bloomberg, compared with the same period in 2015. The number of nights spent in Parisian hotels fell by 21%.
Brexit hasn’t helped. Britain is the country’s second biggest source of overseas visitors. As sterling has plunged, France has become more expensive for those used to popping across the channel to stock up on plonk and Pont-l'Évêque. Consequently, arrivals from Britain are down by 4%.
But terrorism is the main reason for tourists’ squeamishness. Horrific attacks in Paris and Nice over the past 12 months that claimed hundreds of innocent lives, as well as several other well-publicised atrocities, have made Asians, in particular, think again. Nearly 40% fewer Japanese and 23% fewer Chinese have arrived in the country so far this year.
It seems that France will try to allay concerns by deploying more security at its tourist attractions. According to Reuters, Manuel Valls, the prime minister, will set aside some €43m ($48m) to pay for extra personnel and cameras, as well as giving help to restaurants and hotels.
This is something of a delicate balancing act. A country with a highly visible security presence can be both reassuring and a reminder that there is something to be frightened of. When one’s travel plans are immovable—attending a business meeting or conference, for example—then guards on every corner probably help set the mind to rest. When the choice is simply one of preference—a relaxing city break in Paris, Rome or London, say—then tourists might prefer to avoid the place with the most rifle-toting policemen.
Horribly easy though it is to say, the best solution is to thwart future attacks. Tourists are, by nature, resilient creatures. As we have mentioned before on this blog, a study by the World Travel and Tourism Council, an industry body, measured the time it takes for tourism to bounce back from a variety of adverse events. It found that political unrest depresses travel for an average of 27 months; environmental disasters take 24 months to recover from; and the effects of disease lasts 21 months. After a terrorist attack, numbers recover after just 13 months. Three-and-a-half months after the Bastille Day massacre in Nice, let us hope that France gets the chance to test that finding.
This is from Nov 8th 2016, 12:27 by by B.R.