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TOURISM

American tourists tear gassed and robbed at Paris airport hotel

A group of Americans were among 19 tourists who were robbed by masked men armed with tear gas as they waited outside their hotel at Charles-de-Gaulle airport to the north of Paris.

American tourists tear gassed and robbed at Paris airport hotel
Photo: AFP

The robbery took place outside the Novotel Hotel at Paris Charles-de-Gaulle airport on Saturday morning.

The thieves, hooded and dressed in black pulled up in several cars as the 19 tourists, who included four Americans, 12 French and three Moroccans were waiting for a shuttle bus to arrive.

According to reports the attackers sprayed the shocked tourists with tear gas before robbing them of their luggage and personal belongings.

One tourist who tried to fight them off was left with hand injuries.

(The Novotel at Paris Charles-de-Gaulle airport. Google Streetview.)

France's gendarmerie military police have been placed in charge of the manhunt to find the robbers, who were still on the run on Monday morning.

While the vast majority of the tourists who visit Paris have a trouble free trip there have been some high-profile robberies on visitors that have left authorities having to defend the capital's reputation as well as spending big to boost security.

Hotels around the airport as well as the motorway leading to Charles de Gaulle and Le Bourget – Europe's busiest private jet airport – are particularly targeted by thieves.

In August last year The Local reported how a group of Chinese visitors were targeted by robbers as they boarded a bus outside their airport hotel.

In an almost identical attack to the one outside the Novotel, the robbers sprayed the group of Chinese tourists with tear gas as they loaded their luggage onto a bus outside their hotel at Charles-de-Gaulle airport.

Two tourists and an interpreter were slightly injured and taken to hospital.

That was just the latest of many incidents involving Chinese visitors, who in response to increasing concerns over safety launched a petition demanding the police in Paris boost security.

In March this year two Americans were robbed in an underground car park at the plush Place Vendôme.

The victims were in possession of a large quantity of jewels and diamonds and were approached by two men as they returned to their car underneath the Place Vendôme, which is the city's hub for luxury jewellers.

It came just months after Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo was forced to defend the city's reputation after US reality TV star Kim Kardashian was targeted by armed robbers in her luxury Paris residence.

After one-time conservative presidential hopeful Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said the Kardashian robbery demonstrated “the general emergency around security” in Paris, Hidalgo hit back.

She stressed the attack on Kardashian was a “very rare act, occurring in a private area” which “does not call into question the safety in public areas of Paris”.

Nevertheless authorities in France are clearly concerned about the impact on tourist numbers, which dropped by 1.5 million in 2016 mainly due to fear over terror attacks.

In response the government held an emergency meeting and vowed to spend big to lure back visitors.

Not surprisingly, top of their agenda was security and around €15 million will be dedicated to making visitors feel safer.

Among the measures was a plan to roll out more video surveillance or CCTV in sensitive areas where tourists have been targeted, notably hotels on the edge of Paris.

The government also plans “mobile police stations” in tourist hot spots to help tourists report crimes and around 30 sites, including museums, were to see security boosted.

The Novotel hotel had not yet responded after being contacted by The Local.

TOURISM

Tourism minister: Book your French ski holiday now

France’s ski resorts will be open for business this winter, tourism minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne has promised - but no decision has yet been taken on whether a health pass will be required to use ski lifts.

Skiers at a French Alpine resort
Photo: Philippe Desmazes / AFP

“This winter, it’s open, the resorts are open,” Lemoyne told France 2’s 4 Vérités programme.

“Compared to last year, we have the vaccine,” he said, adding that he would “invite those who have not yet done so to [book], because … there will soon be no more room.”

And he promised an answer ‘in the next few days’ to the question of whether health passes would be required for winter holidaymakers to use ski lifts. “Discussions are underway with the professionals,” he said.

The stakes are high: the closure of ski lifts last winter cost manufacturers and ski shops nearly a billion euros. 

This year ski lifts will remain open, but a health pass may be necessary to access them. The health pass is already compulsory for après ski activities such as visits to bars, cafés and restaurants.

COMPARE The Covid rules in place at ski resorts around Europe

Many town halls and communities which depend on winter sports have found it difficult or impossible to make ends meet.

“It’s time for the French mountains to revive,” Lemoyne said, pointing to the fact that the government has provided “more than €6 billion” in aid to the sector.

Winter tourism professionals, however, have said that they are struggling to recruit for the winter season.

“Restaurant and bars are very affected,” by the recruitment crisis, one expert told Franceinfo, blaming a lack of urgency from authorities towards the winter holiday industry.

“We are all asking ourselves what we should do tomorrow to find full employment in the resort,” the expert added.

Post-Brexit visa and work permit rules mean that ski businesses have found it difficult to recruit Brits for short-term, seasonal positions.

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