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TOURISM

What you need to know about the French ‘Tourism Plan’

The government wants France to once again become the most visited country in the world. It has already spent €38 billion supporting the tourism sector during the pandemic - and plans to do more.

Prime Minister Jean Castex, centre, walks with other officials
Prime Minister Jean Castex, centre, has unveiled details of a plan to revive tourism in France. (Photo by GAIZKA IROZ / AFP)

French Prime Minister Jean Castex has unveiled measures to boost tourism to the country. 

Speaking during a visit to Indre-et-Loire on Saturday, he said that €1.9 billion would be spent on rescuing the tourism sector, which has been severely upended by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Here is the gist of how the government plans to spend the money, promised by the Elysée back in June, over the next ten years:

Low-interest loans

€750 million will be loaned to businesses working in the tourism sector, at a fixed rate. Individuals will be able to borrow up to €2 million from the publicly owned Bpifrance bank. This scheme is designed to facilitate modernisation and investment within the tourism sector. 

A further €500 million in long-term loans will be made available to businesses that don’t explicitly work in tourism, but which could help attract visitors to the country – like restaurants, for example. 

READ ALSO French economy shows strong growth with reopening of tourism and leisure

On top of this, €650 million in loans and grants will go towards helping some of the poorest sections of French society go on holiday and towards bringing international artists to exhibit their work in France. Some of this money will also go towards what has been termed ‘responsible tourism’. 

Innovation, digitalisation and training

The government will allocate an unspecified amount of funding to developing ‘high-end’ tourism in France, to bring in wealthier visitors. It will also spend money on developing better transport infrastructure and encouraging innovation and digitalisation within the sector. On top of this, it plans to improve training for those working in tourism. 

Why is the government doing this? 

The government has already spent €38 billion in supporting the tourism sector since the start of the pandemic.

It is determined to keep the sector afloat because of its economic importance for France. In 2019, before the pandemic, tourism accounted for 7.4 percent of French GDP and 9.5 percent of all jobs. The 90 million tourists who visited the country that year brought in an estimated €170 billion. 

Globally, the UN estimates that the tourism sector lost €1 trillion because of Covid-19 in 2020. The French government estimates that the economy lost €61 billion in tourism revenue in 2020, while Le Louvre had 70 percent fewer visitors than usual. 

READ ALSO Six reasons why France is so popular with tourists

Under the current plan, most of the government-backed loans must be repaid within four years. While tourism associations have welcome Castex’s announcements, many are calling for this payback period to be extended for up to 12 years. 

Earlier this week, France’s economy minister Bruno Le Maire said there would be no room for negotiation when it comes to paying back the loans. 

More detail to follow 

Castex did not give concrete details on how tourism businesses could access the funds. 

If you own a tourism business in France, be sure to regularly check our website, as we will publish a guide on how to access these loans as soon as we have further information. 

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COVID-19

Where in France do you still need a face mask?

In France, masks will no longer be required on indoor transport as of Monday, May 16th. Here are rules and recommendations that are still in place:

Where in France do you still need a face mask?

Members of the public in France have been asked to wear face masks for the most part of two years, at times even outside in the street.

Since March 14th, 2022, the facial coverings have no longer been mandatory in most establishments such as shops, and as of Monday, May 16th, it will no longer be mandatory on indoor public transport. 

As of May 16th, you will therefore no longer be required to wear a mask in the following transports:

  • Buses and coaches
  • Subways and streetcars
  • RER and TER
  • TGV and interregional lines
  • Taxis

Regarding airplanes whether or not you must wear a mask is a bit more complicated.

On Wednesday, May 11th, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced that from May 16th onward it would no longer be required to wear a mask in airports and on board aircraft in the European Union. However, Germany has stated that it does not have the intention of lifting its requirement of wearing a mask on its airlines – this would include the Lufthansa airline. Thus, it will be necessary for passengers to still very to rules each airline has in place, which could be the case when travelling to a country that still has indoor mask requirements in place.

EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky specified that vulnerable people should continue to wear masks, and that “a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, to reassure those seated nearby.”

Masks still obligatory in medical settings

However, it will still be mandatory for caregivers, patients and visitors in health care facilities, specifically including hospitals, pharmacies, medical laboratories, retirement homes, and establishments for the disabled. 

For people who are vulnerable either due to their age or their status as immunocompromised, wearing a mask will continue to be recommended, though not required, particularly for enclosed spaces and in large gatherings.

Masks are also still recommended for people who test positive, people who might have come in contact with Covid-19, symptomatic people and healthcare professionals.

Will masks come back?

It is possible. French Health Minister Olivier Véran does not exclude the return of mandatory mask-wearing, should the health situation require it.

What are the other Covid-19 restrictions that remain in place?

The primary restriction that has not changed is the French government’s regulation for testing positive: If you are unvaccinated and test positive, isolation is still required for 10 days, if you are vaccinated, this requirement is seven days. Isolation can be reduced from 10 to 7 days or from 7 to 5 days if a negative covid test is performed, and symptoms are no longer present.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What Covid restrictions remain in place in France?

The French Health Ministry still recommends following sanitary measures such as: wearing a mask in places where it is still mandatory, hand washing, regular ventilation of rooms, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, and using a single-use handkerchief (tissue).

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