Riots have scared off US tourists: travel groups

21st December 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 21 (AFP) - The recent urban riots in France have dealt a blow to the country's important tourism sector, notably by scaring off US tourists who would normally go to Paris for end-of-year festivities, industry groups said.

PARIS, Dec 21 (AFP) - The recent urban riots in France have dealt a blow to the country's important tourism sector, notably by scaring off US tourists who would normally go to Paris for end-of-year festivities, industry groups said.

The Christmas-New Year season was looking "clearly awful" because of the "negative image given to France with the recent events in the suburbs," said Michel Barraud, head of a tourist coach excursion company called Paris-Vision.

The pessimistic outlook for December was the one of the most tangible signs of the consequences of the October 27-November 16 unrest on tourism, one of France's biggest revenue sources. An estimated 75 million foreigners visit the country every year.

"The effect wasn't immediately seen because those who already had reservations came, but then people stopped making reservations, especially Americans," Barraud said.

He added that his business was down nearly 20 percent this month compared with December last year.

Other companies relying on foreign tourists also said they were seeing a decline, though not all laid the blame on the riots.

"Our big cruises for Christmas and New Year are only 30 percent reserved," said a spokeswoman for Bateaux-Parisiens, which runs tourist boats up and down the Seine. She said there was an increasing tendency towards late bookings.

The director of the Paris Tourism Office, Paul Roll, said hotel reservations were steady even though excursion bookings were down, painting a "contradictory" picture of the situation. He said he was confident that last-minute sales would help turn the month around.

One of the heads of the UMIH hotels and restaurants federation, Philippe Villalon, said he expected that New Year's booking in eateries would be determined by late booking made just three or four days before the calendar flipped over into 2006.

The junior tourism minister, Leon Bertrand, admitted recently that the riots would have an effect on tourism, but he predicted it would be short term and "very limited".

A body monitoring France's ski resorts said reservations were below those of the same time last year, though it was likely to be a good season overall, helped by early snowfall.

One of the few French regions showing stronger tourism activity was the Riviera, where the head of the regional tourism authority, Marc Bonnefoy, said bookings were "significantly" higher. The area expected 1.3 million tourists over the Christmas period, 20 percent of them foreigners.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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