Paris Tourism Has Recovered From 2015 Attacks, Officials Say

by admin April 15, 2017 at 3:04 am
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Tourists at the Sacré-Coeur basilica at the top of Montmartre in Paris.

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Lionel Bonaventure/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

PARIS — Tourism in Paris, which plunged after a series of terrorist attacks in 2015, has recovered strongly, according to new national data.

The French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies reported this week that visitor numbers at the end of 2016 equaled those from the end of 2014, suggesting that France would maintain its status as the world’s most-visited country. In January, the number of people checking into Paris hotels reached a 10-year high of just over 1.5 million, a 6.4 percent increase from the same month three years earlier.

The number of visitors dropped after a deadly attack on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January 2015 and coordinated assaults in and around Paris in November 2015.

Restaurateurs, hotel owners and museum officials confirmed the uptick in recent months and expressed hope that the trend would continue this year.

Tourists, both international and domestic, seem to have adjusted to the idea that they may have to live with some danger, and that a world city like Paris will never be completely safe.

“The skies are clear and the sun is shining,” said José Dufour, manager of the 24-hour restaurant Au Pied de Cochon in central Paris, known for serving pig’s feet and other delicacies to a late-night crowd.

The restaurant’s clientele — about half of whom are international tourists — fell by 70 percent in the weeks after the November 2015 attacks. On some nights, especially early in the week, there were no customers. “The streets were deserted,” Mr. Dufour recalled.

But what he called a state of “collective psychosis” has ended, Mr. Dufour said, and his business is receiving the same number of guests as before.

At the Plaza Athénée, a historic luxury hotel, the average occupancy rate in January was around 70 percent, which François Delahaye, the hotel’s general director, called “very good.”

“Slowly but surely, if no major incidents arrive, business will take off again,” Mr. Delahaye said. “The tendency is upward, but things remain fragile.”

The French tourists were the first to return, said Charles-Henri Boisseau, who calculates the numbers for the Paris tourism office’s monthly economic report. Then the American and Chinese tourists came back — their numbers in December were up 30 percent and 40 percent from December 2014. (More than 1.7 million tourists from the United States, the most of any country, were recorded in Paris in 2016.)

Other factors played into these positive trends as well, Mr. Boisseau said. The euro is now cheaper compared with the dollar than it was before the attacks, which makes it more attractive for Americans to travel to the eurozone. And the Chinese tourism market continued to grow in 2016, rising by 4.3 percent from 2015.

The French government, which allocated 10 million euros to promote France as a tourist destination in 2016, and the office of Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who has worked to make the city center greener and more pedestrian-friendly, focused on luring back tourists. Other measures — such as tighter security checks at museums and more patrols by police officers and soldiers in the streets — were also aimed at restoring a sense of security, officials said.

Tourism from other European countries and from Japan, however, has yet to rebound at the same rates as tourism from the United States and China, the statistics show.

Sharon and Dan McLaughlin, a couple from the Finger Lakes region of New York who were visiting Paris for the first time on Friday, had praise for the city.

“There is a lot of police around and I feel very safe,” Ms. McLaughlin said. “It’s so beautiful, I think people here don’t even realize it.”

“Just look at it, it’s magnificent,” she continued, pointing at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. “In the States we don’t have this, because we’re a newer country.”

Linda Glover, from Nottingham, England, took the high-speed Eurostar train to Paris from London on Friday morning. This Easter weekend, more than 163,000 passengers reserved a ticket on the train. That number was a record, 12 percent higher than the same weekend last year, Eurostar said on Wednesday.

“I don’t think it’s an insecure city at all,” Ms. Glover said. “Of course you think about terrorism, it’s everywhere now, but it didn’t make me not go to Paris.”

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