Dark days for tourism in the City of Light

AFP - [email protected] • 22 Aug, 2021 Updated Sun 22 Aug 2021 09:28 CEST
Dark days for tourism in the City of Light
(FILES) In this file photo taken on August 11, 2020 a street artist wearing a protective facemask draws the portrait of a tourist posing at the place du Tertre, in the Montmartre neighbourhood, in Paris. - No lost tourists in the metro, bored caricaturists at Place du Tertre in Montmartre, the Mona Lisa still smiling but in front of a smaller audience: this summer again, tourists, especially foreigners, have shunned Paris, which has lost 60% of visitors. (Photo by ALAIN JOCARD / AFP)

Few tourists are gazing at the Mona Lisa or wandering the streets of Paris this summer, dashing hopes that the top tourist destination would see brighter days after last year's pandemic-linked desertion.


The City of Light has seen between 3.6 million and 4.7 million visitors between June and August, down from 10 million in 2019, before the coronavirus emerged and wrecked international travel, according to tourism office figures.

Only 2.6 million tourists visited Paris last year. "With clients from afar not coming, the impact is considerable," Didier
Arino, director of the travel firm Protourisme, told AFP.

France eased its travel rules ahead of the summer season, putting countries in a red, orange and green colour-coded system that determines if visitors need to take a Covid-19 test before arriving, have a compelling reason to
visit or quarantine.

Museums and other cultural venues reopened after long closures, though visitors have to show proof of vaccination or negative tests.

But Paris visitor numbers still disappointed.


'Reinventing ourselves'

Arino said occupancy rates at hotels in Paris were worse than elsewhere in France, with revenues down 60 percent.

Romain Jouhaud, director general of 4 Roues Sous 1 Parapluie, a company that offers guided visits in a classic French car in the capital, said he only had 120 customers this summer compared to 360 in 2019.

Most of his clients are from the United States and Australia. "We're trying to get a bit more French clients but our problem is that our average price (150 euros) is a little high," he said, noting that the French usually spend less than foreigners.

Tour guides have also suffered from the absence of tourists, with activity dropping by more than 80 percent in the Ile-de-France region, which includes Paris, according to the FNGIC association of guides.

READ ALSO: How tourists can use France's health passport to access museums, cafés and trains

"Paris is a mirror of the great European capitals," Arino said. "They all have problems and the more they depend on foreign clients, the more difficult it is."

On the river Seine, the sightseeing boat company Vedettes de Paris has seen turnover drop 50 percent compared to 2019. French clients used to make up half the number of passengers; they accounted for 65 percent this year.

The company has adapted by adding an "aperitif cruise" and installing an area to play petanque on its dock.

"We learned to reinvent ourselves, give the Seine and Eiffel Tower back to Parisians," said the company's director, Marie Bozzonie.

The Eiffel Tower reopened in mid-July after a nine-month hiatus due to the pandemic, but it has only had 13,000 visitors per day -- half its usual number.

Some 50 percent are French compared to 20 percent in the past.

Similar scenes have been seen at the Grevin Museum, which features wax figures of famous people.

Half of its visitors are usually foreigners. It is down to 10 percent this year, according to Francois Frassier, a director at the Compagnie des Alpes, which owns the museum and theme parks.


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peraxel 2021/08/27 14:20
This entire situation is in a constant state of flux. Here in USA it is a MESS with state and now School's differing on what to do. With the advent that the vaccines are now FDA APPROVED we can hopefully move into mandatory compulsory vaccination and we can move on. For those of us who actually remember Polio, this is much the same. And I prefer to live, so I can visit France again many more times.
dmh0tcc 2021/08/26 14:01
It would help if we could get our Health passes quicker as vaccinated Tourist’s Planning trips and tours are not easy, not knowing how long the QR codes take to get from French Health officials

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