Leadership and Democracy LabWestern Social Science

The Bastille Day Attacks: A Further Blow to French Tourism

Primary Contributor – Brianna Prashad

Leader: Blaine Yonemitsu

As a large crowd assembled at the edge of the sea in Nice, France, on July 14, 2016, to watch a display of fireworks, a lorry ploughed through two kilometers of the crowded beachfront prior to being stopped by police. A total of eighty-six people were killed, and a further 303 injured in what has been dubbed the Bastille Day terrorist attacks. The attacker was unknown to police, generating questions about the competency of French security services, and the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. The Bastille Day attacks came mere months after the devastating November 2015 Paris attacks.  

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council’s annual report, travelers are resilient. This means that despite any “new dangers” such as terrorism, there will always be a contingent of people who continue to travel. Notwithstanding this fact, visits to France have taken a hit following the Bastille Day attacks. Tourism has fallen by over 8% from January 2016 to October of the same year as compared to the same period in 2015. Further to this, the number of nights spent in Parisian hotels fell by 21% during the same period. Terrorism is noted as the main deterrent for tourists travelling to France, given that the attacks in Paris and Nice in the past year have claimed hundreds of French and foreign lives.

Due to the fact that terrorism is a borderless and unpredictable threat, it becomes difficult to mitigate it. The main issue that faces the tourism industry in France is that no company can significantly alter a tourist’s perception of the climate of safety within the country. Despite this, specific companies should take steps such as investing in additional security personnel and streamlining their procedures in the event of a terrorist threat. This may help tourists to perceive a safer environment, and would make it less likely for the threat of a possible terrorist attack to negatively impact rates of travel.

Although individual companies can take action to strengthen safety procedures in their own operations, the most effective mitigation strategy starts with the government taking action to make visitors feel safe wherever they travel. On November 7, Prime Minister Manual Valls announced that France would spend $48 million in order to improve security for tourists after the recent downturn in arrivals to the country. The funding will be used to increase surveillance cameras and security personnel throughout popular tourist landmarks, in order to make tourists feel safer. This expenditure is necessary in order to avoid the decline in visitor arrivals experienced so far this year. Given that France is traditionally the world’s most popular tourist destination, the government is taking further action to mitigate the negative impact that terrorism has had on tourism.

Aside from the $48 million security expenditure announced on November 7, the Prime Minister is set to hold an industry conference on November 17 involving travel industry experts. The purpose of this conference is to generate strategies that will help to better promote tourism in France. This conference will act as an effective mitigation strategy, as its takeaways should help to reverse the negative impact that terrorism has had on the industry in 2016. Further to this, the Prime Minister plans to invest $4 million to directly help performing arts venues to bounce back from lower occupancy rates. This money could be used by the venues to invest in additional security personnel, as suggested earlier.

Although terrorism is an extremely volatile and unpredictable threat, there is evidence that tourism can bounce back relatively fast from terrorism. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, terrorism only depresses tourism for around 13 months, compared to political unrest and environmental disasters, which deter tourism for 27 and 24 months respectively. Despite these statistics, companies in the business of tourism can take action in order to make tourists feel safer when travelling. Combined with recent actions proposed by the Prime Minister, these are effective mitigation strategies that will aid in reversing the decline in tourism to France.