Tourism minister assures tourists not a target

7th November 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 7 (AFP) - A growing number of nations warned their nationals to avoid French suburbs hit by more than a week of escalating violence, prompting France's tourism minister to say Monday that tourists were not a target.

PARIS, Nov 7 (AFP) - A growing number of nations warned their nationals to avoid French suburbs hit by more than a week of escalating violence, prompting France's tourism minister to say Monday that tourists were not a target.

The minister, Leon Bertrand, admitted that the unrest -- television images of which have gone around the world -- "risked posing a problem for tourism if these incidents continue."

But he added that "right now, tourism is not being targeted."

"No tourists have been harassed and tourist spots have not been touched," Bertrand assured a media conference in Paris.

Australia, Austria, Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, Denmark and the United States have all issued advisories recommending their citizens exercise extreme caution amid all the violence.

Hong Kong's Security Bureau told residents to stay abreast of developments and "pay attention to personal safety", and to contact the Chinese embassy if they needed assistance.

The fall-out from the rampages that have gone on every night since October 27 has the potential to cause major damage to the tourist industry in France, the world's most popular destination, with 75 million visitors per year.

Although most of the violence has taken place in low-rent suburbs outside Paris and other cities, the heart of the capital itself was hit by arsonists who torched 51 cars on the weekend.

In all, some 5,000 vehicles have been burnt and more than 1,000 people have been arrested.

One man died Monday after being beaten in a tough suburb and a South Korean reporter was kicked unconscious on the weekend as she reported on the unrest.

No tourists have been hurt, but two coaches, one transporting Russians and one a group of Poles, were reportedly torched outside Paris by maurading gangs after they were hastily evacuated.

Australia urged its citizens to "exercise a high degree of caution" in the country. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said that "sadly, the rioting has the potential to spread still further."

Japan's government published a warning to its nationals to avoid riot-hit areas altogether. "In case you are involved you should leave the place swiftly and make an effort to stay safe."

Austria, Britain, Canada, Germany, Russia and Spain said the disturbances were serious and told visitors to use extreme care in affected areas and avoid demonstrations.

The website of the US embassy in Paris said travel to and from the French capital's main airport, Charles de Gaulle to the northeast, could be disrupted as it runs through some of the worst-hit suburbs.

Portugal's foreign ministry promised consular protection, including help with relocation, for any of its citizens caught up in the urban violence.

The Czech foreign ministry also advised against travelling to the suburbs, while Hungary suggested that tourists buy complete insurance coverage for the duration of their stay, including for their cars.

Visitors to Paris expressed some anxiety and curiosity, but no fear.

"We wondered about whether we'd come or not after after watching it all on TV, but we figured that it was all taking place on the outskirts, not in the centre," said Colin Rampton, a Briton aged 27 visiting the Louvre museum with two friends.

"Still, we did see a car burning as we arrived by train," he told AFP.

Around them, hundreds of foreigners took pictures in the autumn sunshine.

Maggie, a Chinese tourist from Beijing, said her mobile service provider had flashed her a text message warning her not to go outside Paris and giving the contact details of the Chinese embassy.

But she stressed that "I feel safe here because most of the activities are happening elsewhere, and I don't really go to other places at nighttime."

Shim, a South Korean tour guide holding aloft a yellow umbrella, said her clients were constantly reading newspapers but that "we don't know too much of what's going on."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

 

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