Travel agents in France lose half a million euros each day due to strikes

The ongoing strikes by rail workers and Air France staff are taking a devastating toll on the tourism and restaurant industry, with travel agents alone losing half a million euros each day of the stoppages.

Travel agents in France lose half a million euros each day due to strikes
Photo: AFP

Travel agents are the hardest hit because they have to handle their customers’ problems when tourists are left stranded by a cancelled train or flight.

“Take the example of a cruise that starts in Marseille. The Paris-Marseille trains are cancelled. The customer can’t go on the cruise because the cruise ship won’t wait,” said Jean-Pierre Mas of the Entreprises du Voyage industry association.

“So the travel company has to pay the cruise ship on the one hand and reimburse the passenger on the other,” he told Europe 1 radio.

He said that the cost of reorganising train trips, flights and hotels for customers was costing travel agents around 500,000 euros for each day that transport workers strike.

SNCF rail workers on Friday were on their fifth day of rolling strikes and vow to continue stopping work two days out of every five until at least the end of June to force the government to back down on its plans to do away with certain perks that SNCF get.

Staff at Air France have for their part gone on strike three days in the past two weeks and vow to walk off the job on several more days this month if the company does not give them the six percent pay rise they want.

If the strikes continue as planned, losses to the travel industry are set to rocket in May, which has four bank holidays during which many French traditionally head off for long weekends.

But this year peolpe are holding off on making travel plans and booking hotels of holiday apartments because of the travel uncertainty.

Hotel industry figures show that hotel reservations were down 10 percent from March compared to the same period last year, and are set to fall even further.

Restaurants are also being hit, with their turnover dropping by up to 25 percent on strike days because many people eat in the workplace at lunchtime in order to leave work early in the hope of getting a place on the vastly reduced number of trains operating.

There have been no official figures so far on the overall cost to the economy of the strikes.
But SNCF chief executive Guillaume Pepy said on Monday that the stoppages at the rail firm had so far cost the company around 100 million euros, or more than 20 million euros per day.
Do I come to France during the strikes?

Since the strikes began The Local has been inundated with emails from worried tourists due to come to France wanting to know whether they will be able to catch a certain train on a certain date.

One of the problems is it's hard to know in advance because rail operator SNCF only reveal details of how many trains are running around 24 hours before the strike.

While SNCF and Air France have both advised people to change their plans on days of rail and air strikes and also suggested people avoid going to train stations and airports, it's important to note that there are still planes and trains operating on strike days.

On Friday, the latest day of rail strikes, SNCF revealed that the impact on services had lessened from when the industrial action began on April 3rd.

For example one third of TGV trains were running, compared one out of 8 when the strikes began. This could be a sign that things will get better as time goes on.

But of course strikes in France take on a life of their own and things may yet worsen.

Below is a link to advice on what to do if your train or plane is cancelled 

French strikes: What can I do to avoid train and plane travel misery in France?




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French customs officers strike over job cuts

Customs officers across France will walk out on Thursday in protest at job cuts that unions say will “weaken the customs network”.

French customs officers strike over job cuts

The national strike on Thursday, March 10th is expected to lead to delays at ports, airports and on the Eurostar.

The strike, which will include a rally outside the National Assembly building in Paris, was called by the CFDT-Douane and has the support of other unions. 

A work-to-rule protest over pay and conditions by customs officers in 2019, under the shadow of Brexit, led to delays and disruption at airports, as well as ports including Calais and Dunkirk, and on Eurostar trains.

Unions are calling on the government to axe plans to switch responsibility for import duty collection to the Direction Générale des Finances Publiques by 2024, at the cost of 700 customs’ officer jobs – and, according to strikers, tens of billions of euros to State coffers.

“We are asking for the reforms to be stopped, mainly that of the transfer of taxation, which is disorganising the network with the elimination of nearly a thousand jobs,” CFDT-Douane’s secretary general David-Olivier Caron said.

The planned job cuts come after years of restructuring and streamlining that has seen thousands of positions disappear, the unions say, when customs fraud and smuggling is rising because of a lack of resources.