How Paris tourism has been ‘shattered’ by the pandemic

Tourism in Paris, one of the world's most visited cities, has plunged due to the coronavirus, causing fear of mass-closures for thousands of businesses that rely on visitors its senior regional official said Thursday.

How Paris tourism has been 'shattered' by the pandemic
Paris has been emptier than usual these past months. Photo: AFP

Because of Covid-19, 14 million less tourists came to the French capital in the first six months of the year compared to last year, said Valerie Pecresse, the right-wing president of the greater Paris region Ile-de-France.

“Tourism is an extremely precious economic activity for Ile-de-France which represents 500,000 jobs and 7 to 8 percent of regional growth,” Pecresse said at a press conference.

“For the past four years, we had been announcing record number of visitors. So it is with great sadness that we have seen the pandemic shatter an extremely dynamic and flourishing sector,” she said.

READ ALSO: Hidden treasure: The 'forgotten' Paris neighbourhood that tourists rarely see

The income generated by tourism fell from €10.2 billion from January to June 2019 to €3.8 billion over the same period in 2020.

As many planes remain grounded and long-haul flights limited, 68 percent fewer international tourists visited the city of lights, whereas the drop was of 54 percent for national tourists.

Tourists from abroad tend to spend between twice and three times as much as those who live in France, meaning that the fall in income was that much sharper.

Half of the region's businesses expect an improvement of affairs by the end of October, thanks to French clients and tourists from neighbouring European countries.

But the 80 percent drop of reservations for long-haul flights means many entrepreneurs remain wary.

Paris and its region are a safe destination, Pecresse said Thursday, adding that she was dismayed to see that Germany and Belgium had marked the region as a risky destination.

READ ALSO 'Lockdown plans are ready' – French PM lays out Covid-19 strategy

The Ile-de-France region is working on a health security label, comprising of very strict measures, to reassure foreign tourists, Pecresse said.

France's Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on Thursday that face masks will become compulsory throughout Paris after a recent surge in cases.

Masks are already obligatory on public transport nationwide and in most enclosed public spaces.

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France to roll out ID cards app

Technology is being rolled out to allow people to carry their French ID cards in an app form - and could be rolled out to other cards, including driving licences and cartes de séjour residency cards.

France to roll out ID cards app

Holders of French carte d’identité (ID cards) will soon be able to carry certified digital versions of them on their smartphone or other electronic devices, a decree published in the Journal Officiel has confirmed.

An official app is being developed for holders of the newer credit card-format ID cards that have information stored on a chip. A provisional test version of the app is expected at the end of May.

Users will be able to use the ID card app, when it becomes available, for a range of services “from checking in at the airport to renting a car”, according to Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market.

All French citizens have an ID card, which can be used for proving identity in a range of circumstances and for travel within the EU and Schengen zone – the new app will be in addition to the plastic card that holders already have.

Under the plans, after downloading the app, card holders will need merely to hold the card close to their phone to transfer the required information. According to officials, the holder then can decide what information is passed on – such as proof of age, or home address – according to the situation.

The government has not given any examples of situations in which the app would need to be used, but has set out the main principles and the ambition of the plan: to allow everyone to identify themselves and connect to certain public and private organisations, in particular those linked to the France Connect portal.

READ ALSO What is France Connect and how could it make your life simpler?

Cards will continue to be issued for the foreseeable future – this is merely an extension of the existing system.

Only French citizens have ID cards, but if successful the app is expected to be rolled out to include other cards, such as driving licences, cartes de séjour residency cards or even visas. A digital wallet is being developed at the European level – Member States have until September to agree what it could contain.

READ ALSO Eight smartphone apps that make life in France a bit easier