Already suffering from the impact of last year's extremist attacks, tourism in Paris is facing a fresh challenge from a wave of violent strikes and protests.
Tourism bosses have warned that with threats of nation-wide violent protests and strikes which are disrupting transportation, the number of tourists visiting Paris is decreasing ahead of the Euro 2016 championship. Hotel bookings by Japanese visitors were down 56 percent in the first quarter of the year compared to the same period in 2015, while Russians were down by 35 percent, according to the city's tourist board.
Chinese tourists had been a major driver of growth last year – reaching a new record of 1.2 million – but their numbers this year dropped by 13.9 percent. "The start of 2016 is still feeling the disastrous consequences of the attacks in 2015," read a statement the tourism board.
France is the world's most visited country, but tourists were frightened by the November attacks in the capital that left 130 people dead, and last year's January 2015 killings at the Charlie Hebdo magazine and a Jewish supermarket. While the atmosphere in Paris had returned to normal in recent months, an outburst of social unrest over controversial labor reforms has once again put doubts in the minds of tourists.
Three months of student and union-led protests have descended into violent clashes between demonstrators and police. Unions are tapping months of public anger over a labor bill that would make it easier for employers to fire workers and lengthen the working week.
The scenes of violence seem to have had a negative impact on tourists perception of the country. The fresh industrial unrest, which caused petrol shortages and travel delays across France last week, was set to hit transportation just days before fans begin arriving for the start of the football championships on June 10.
"There is still time to save the tourist season by putting an end to these blockades that are being shown the world over," said Frederic Valletoux, head of the Paris tourist board. "It's the entire tourism and leisure network that is penalized. The challenge for employees is immense because 500,000 of them depend on the sector in the Paris region"... Read more