Security Concerns, Labor Unrest Blamed for Americans Avoiding France This Summer

By Fayçal Benhassain | August 11, 2016 | 1:12am EDT
Paris is one of the most visited cities on earth, but this summer American tourist numbers are down. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza, File)

Paris (CNSNews.com) – It’s high summer in Paris, but the number of foreign visitors has dropped by 15 percent since the beginning of the year, with tourism authorities reporting at least six percent fewer Americans coming to France this year compared to 2015.  The same situation applies across the country, according to local tourism officials.

Laurent Duc of the hotel owners’ union UMIH blamed the situation on security fears and labor unrest.

“When they watch what is happening in France on television Americans only see that the country is broken. There are strikes in the airports, the streets are full of trash, also due to strikes and of course the terrorist attacks,” he said. “Therefore they [avoid] our country.”

Duc, who owns an hotel near the city of Lyon, is not alone in his worry about the lack of tourists in general and Americans in particular this summer season. Normally around 3.2 million Americans visit France each year.

Airlines companies say 19.2 percent fewer flights were booked to France by American visitors in the last week of July.

At the end of the first quarter, there had been 35 percent fewer American visitors than during the same period last year, according to Didier Chenet, president of the hotels, restaurants and bars union, GNI-Synhorcat.

“We have already had 10 percent less bookings in the Paris region for this summer compared to last year,” he added.

The Paris region in particular has been severely affected by the drop in numbers of American tourists. Even for the usually popular summer sales, relative few U.S. tourists made the trip.

“This year we had much fewer Americans than the other years,” said Sheherazad Beljnaoui, head of a women fashion store in the capital’s Le Marais neighborhood. “In general they like our clothes and they are numerous all year around but in particular during the sales. Not this year.”

The south east of France has also suffered a lot since the July 14 terror attack in Nice, which cost 84 lives on Bastille Day. The State Secretary of Tourism has not published official numbers, but the main agency that promotes tourism in the country, Atout France, confirmed a six percent drop in the number of American visitors in July compared to the same month last year.

“Europeans are still numerous, but tourists coming from the U.S. and Canada as well as Japan and Brazil are much less than last year,” said spokesman Philippe Maud’hui.

He said those visitors tend to spend more money than French or European tourists do on hotels and restaurants.

The terror attack in Nice, and the killing of a priest near the city of Rouen by two men linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) added to existing concerns about safety.

Back in May the State Department cautioned Americans about traveling to France, citing last year’s terrorist attacks. The advisory is valid until August 31.

France’s secretary of state for tourism, Matthias Fekl, said that wealthy tourists from three regions in particular – the U.S., Asia and Gulf countries – “reacted strongly to the attacks” and seem to be staying away.

But tourism industry representatives say strikes are adding to the general drop in foreign tourist numbers.

The country was just emerging from the effects of the November ISIS attacks in Paris when industrial actions erupted.

After France, the next most popular destination for American visitors is Britain. Some 3.01 million visited that country last year, tourism data show.

Next came Spain and Ireland, with 1.22 and 1.17 million respectively.

Britain, Spain and Ireland may benefit from France’s losses this year, although no official figures are yet available to show whether that will be the case.

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