Tourist businesses in France were suspended by government order from March 15th – two days before the lockdown began – and with home-working not an option, people working in this sector have had little choice but to sign up for government financial help and count the days until they can start trading again.
As the lockdown starts to be lifted, some types of businesses can begin operating again, but for many the future is still not clear.
Cafés and bars were ordered to close the weekend before the nation went into lockdown. Photo: AFP
Gites, camp sites and B&Bs
These type of businesses are allowed to open in the first phase of the lockdown lifting, from May 11th, provided they can ensure appropriate social distancing measures for customers and staff.
International travel into France is still heavily restricted so there won't be any foreign tourists, but people in France are now permitted to travel up to 100km from home.
The Prime Minister when announcing the measures said “now is not the time for weekend trips” but it seems that many people are not quite taking him at his word.
Some gite and B&B owners, particularly those within 100km of big cities like Paris, have reported a surge in bookings as people desperate for a change of scene and some fresh air book in for a couple of days.
Olivier Sergirac, who runs a gite and two chalets in Yvelines, close to Paris, says he has been booked out since the lockdown lifted.
He told France Info: “As many people can work remotely, since it's encouraged, I think a lot of people come to get some fresh air, take in the green spaces, with their laptop and a few files.”
Looking ahead to the summer, we don't know when either the international restrictions or the 100km rule will be lifted – both depend on the virus situation.
However French people are being encouraged to take holidays in France this year, both to avoid international travel and to help the tourist businesses.
Bars, cafés and restaurants
For the moment these stay shut, and a decision will be taken at the end of May on when and how they can reopen. However, restaurants and cafés are allowed to offer a takeaway service.
The hospitality industry – which employs one million people in France – has been lobbying for a tax exemption for 2020, cancellation of rents for six months and at least a partial covering by the state of operating losses.
Chef and French TV star Philip Etchebest has previously warned that without government help up to 40 percent of France's bars, cafés and restaurants could never reopen after the lockdown.
For bars and cafés – particularly the crammed Paris café terraces – reopening while practising social distancing is likely to be very difficult.
The mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo has proposed closing off entire streets to vehicles to allow cafés to expand their cramped terraces out into the street.
Speaking after a video call with the president and representatives of the tourist industry, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said: “It is very hard financially. It is a psychological shock that you cannot under-estimate for the 246,000 restaurant establishments in France.
“We will be there at the moment they open and in the months to come.”
In the meantime, anyone running a tourist related business could be eligible for the government's financial aid packages, which have now been extended to cover May as well as March and April.
Museums, galleries and tourist sites
This is a mixed category, since some smaller museums and galleries are permitted to open from May 11th, if they can ensure appropriate social distancing for visitors and staff.
Larger museums and tourist sites like the Eiffel Tower, which usually attract millions of visitors every year will remain closed until at least phase 2 – which begins on June 2nd – and possibly longer.