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Is it really wise for tourists to come to Paris in the run up to Christmas?

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Is it really wise for tourists to come to Paris in the run up to Christmas?
Photo: AFP
15:48 CET+01:00
The scenes of violence on the Champs-Elysees that were broadcast around the world this weekend have already started to have an effect on tourism in the French capital, with many visitors cancelling their trips. So, should tourists stay away from Paris right now? Our readers share their views
 
The first weekend in December should mark the beginning of the Christmas shopping season in Paris, with tourists from around the world flocking to the French capital to make their festive purchases.
 
Then there's the romantic couples who head to the City of Lights in December for a romantic getaway.
 
But the destruction seen in the centre of Paris on Saturday when six buildings were set alight, dozens of restaurants and shops and even the Arc de Triomphe sacked and pillaged and over 100 cars burned has led many to question whether they should cancel their visit to the French capital.
 
Stories of how the Grands Magasins, including Galeries Lafayette, were hurredly evacuated and of how the protests quickly spread from Place de L'Etoile down the avenues where people were smashing and burning cars, and pillaging banks, shops and restaurants is unlikely to fill anyone planning a trip to Paris with confidence. 
 
And the effects are already being felt.
 
Some restaurants in Paris have already seen a 20-50 percent loss in turnover as a result of the riots and for some places located in the heart of the action losses have been even more significant, according to Didier Chenet, president of the national association of independent hotel and catering businesses. 
 
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Yellow vests: Who were the rioters who wreaked havoc and destruction in Paris?Photo: AFP

"The situation is catastrophic," Chenet told The Local. "The cancellations are arriving in droves and at one of the most important times for tourism in Paris."
 
"It needs to stop," he said, adding that the tourism industry, including restaurants and hotels, can't sustain another week of the same situation.
 
"What worries us are cancellations and early departures of tourists, we are down by about 15 percent in the hotel sector," Chenet said.
 
One tourist who is planning to come to Paris told The Local:" We planned for New Year's eve and rented an apartment a block from the Arc. Not exactly sure if we're going now."
 
There have been cancellations by tourists coming to Paris to celebrate the end of the year and tourists who are leaving early after the events of this weekend, he said, adding that Brits and Americans have cancelled their trips and now the industry is concerned that Asian tourists will do the same. 
 
Roland Heguy of the CAT tourism federation also warned that this Christmas season was "at risk, if not already lost."
 
Saturday's protest "has decimated the welcoming image of Paris and France," he told AFP.
 
France had been on track for a banner tourism year, he said, recovering from the slump which followed the jihadist attacks of 2015.
   
On Monday, France's Minister of the Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire said that for the first time since the start of the protests hotel reservations had fallen by "around 15 to 20 percent".
 
However Eurostar said they had not yet noticed the effect of Saturday's riots. 
 
"Our services are operating as normal and there is nothing to suggest that there has been an increase in cancellations or exchanges of tickets," a spokesperson for the company told The Local. 
 
Photo: AFP
 
So, what should people who have planned to visit Paris in the next few weeks do?
 
Currently the protests in Paris are taking place on Saturdays, so if you are coming during the week then everything should be calm.
 
The main thing to take into account is that tourists are not the target of protesters' anger. It is the government and those employed to keep law and order - the police.
 
While it seems reasonable that many tourists would be put off by the scenes of violence seen at Saturday's protests, it's also important to remember that they took place in a relatively small area of the city. 
 
On Saturday, many popular tourist areas such as the picturesque area of Montmartre, Canal Saint Martin, the Left Bank and the area around the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame were completely unaffected by the protests. 
 
However, there's no doubt that the situation remains unpredictable, particularly if you had planned to visit the French capital on a weekend. 
 
There are already plans being made for another protest this weekend and if you are staying near Champs-Elysees and other very central areas such as Opera, then it might be wise to postpone.
 
Our readers offered their advice on the situation, with opinion divided on whether it was worth avoiding the capital at the moment. 
 
Katherine Watt said: "Don’t cancel! Just choose your venues carefully. I live in 18th and all is good!"
 
One reader named Chris who lives in Paris said: "For starters, nobody in Paris spends much time on the Champs-Élysées. Most dread going there. The problems were highly concentrated in a small area. Montmartre was far away & calm and plenty of other fun areas were fine. It's easy to avoid the problem areas."
 
Another pointed out that people who don't cancel could benefit from the fact that others will. 
 
"It's a good time to get cheaper hotels and shorter queues for the museums," said David Stoyle. 
 
Some visitors are due to visit soon and say they have no intention of cancelling their trips.
 
Anna Tinsman said: "Go and stay informed on where the protests will be and avoid that area. I’ll be going in early January and I have no intention of canceling."
 
Tina Giuliani added: "We are coming in about a week. Not worried. Going to be smart and safe - as always. And we avoid the Champs even when there are no riots...because really it holds no interest for us."
 
However others pointed out that depending on what you want to see -- and particularly if it's your first trip -- you might want to cancel. 
 
"My wife and I are heading there Wednesday but taking an early train back to Lyon on Saturday. For first timers, now is not the time to go - wait until early spring," said Jim Lockard. 
 
Meanwhile Jacqueline Dubois pointed out that "although Paris remains a pretty safe place to be, considering many are announcing an act 4 for next Saturday, I would, if this was still possible, cancel and postpone a visit since the riots are taking place in the main tourists areas (Champs Elysees, Opera/Madeleine)".
 
 
 
 

Katherine Watt said: "Don’t cancel! Just choose your venues carefully. I live in 18th and all is good!"

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