Urban violence in France has triggered cancellations of holiday reservations by foreign customers, especially Americans, a clientele that is nevertheless crucial for Paris and France, deplores the boss of the Paris Tourist Office, Jean-François Rial.
And if these riots continue, it will not be good for France’s image one year from the Olympic Games, worries the man who is also CEO of the Voyageurs du Monde group.
Question: Do you see a risk for the image of France and for the summer tourist season?
A: Yes, there is a real risk. And this, even if it calms down because many tourists are allergic to risk.
This is the second time in three months that we have had serious incidents, there has already been the story of garbage cans flaming in the spring during the demonstrations against the pension reform, which had a disastrous impact: we had seen in the wake of a wave of thousands of cancellations of reservations, mainly hotels.
Today in Paris, with the violence, we already have thousands of cancellations. At the beginning of July, I think that we are already around 20-25% of cancellations in Paris on international customers and I would not be surprised if these are the same figures for the whole of France. For American customers, it’s more like 15% cancellations in Paris – tourism in France is apparently “helped” by the Canadian fires and the strikes in the United States…
In Brittany or Corsica, there are surely fewer cancellations than in the capital – and obviously not all foreigners have the same sensitivity. But that cancels out in Paris because the most violent images take place there, as well as in other big cities like Lyon or Marseille for example.
Originally, we were off to a good start this year for a very good summer tourist season in the capital. The riots in 2005 cost 30% of reservations. We could take the path if it continues.
Q: Do you fear an impact for tourism around the Rugby World Cup which opens in September in France and for the Olympic Games in a year?
A: We have less to worry about for the Rugby World Cup than for the Olympic Games, unless the urban violence obviously continues for a long time.
The rugby public is a public of enthusiasts, who often come from afar, they are not going to cancel their visit because of the incidents of June-July. There are a lot of English, New Zealanders, Australians, South Africans…
But a larger public like that of the Olympic Games will be more worried because it is not as motivated or passionate, it is a much larger public competition, with more families, children… A public that is getting closer the behavior of tourists in general who come to visit France.
Q: And the Americans, a key clientele for Paris and France, who had just returned to Europe since the Covid crisis?
A: Yes, that is dramatic. There was advice given to Americans to avoid coming to France, it’s serious.
This kind of incident scares away American customers, the same goes for the Japanese. These are historically the two clienteles most sensitive to security issues. And the Americans in particular are often less informed than others, they quickly make amalgams.
One would have hoped that people would forget very quickly, people see images and then they forget. At the time of the story of the burnt bins in April, there had been a wave of cancellations and a halt in registrations for upcoming trips to France. But after a month, the emotion had faded and reservations had resumed. Our big problem here is repetition.
Concretely, we had a 25% growth in American customers in Paris since the beginning of the year, which compensated for the absence of Chinese and Russians and we were particularly hitting the top of the range, with a lot of spin-offs. economic. There, in the palaces, we now have cancellations.