Writer: Jonathan Strom
Leader: Blaine Yonemitsu
For years, France has been one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world; however, following the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, France’s status as the top tourist destination is in question. While France welcomed 85 million foreigners in 2015, this figure is expected to be lower in 2016. Not only will the 2015 Paris attacks depress the number of travellers, but so too will the July 14th 2016 attacks in Nice. For the week after the July 14th attacks, air arrivals to France fell 8.8% from the same time the previous year. Fewer tourists mean less revenue for the French economy, which lost over £750 million in tourist-related revenue during the first six months of 2016.
When terrorism strikes, it creates chaos and fear in the general public. This fear can have profound effects on the number of travelers to and length of their stay in France. The impact of terrorism is perhaps best felt in the hotel sector, which is directly correlated to the gross number of tourist in the country. As of July 2016, overnight stays in hotels are down 10% from the previous year, while hotel revenue is down by 14%. Additionally, major nations around the world such as the U.S, the U.K, Canada and Australia have all issued formal warnings to citizens about the risks that travelling to France have specially in regards to terrorism. Major tourist attractions, such as Disneyland Paris, have also felt the affects, seeing a substantial drop in attendance. Airbnb, which has become extremely popular in Paris, is also suffering with fewer people willing to travel to the country.
With tourism being extremely important to France’s economy, the French government continues to try and boost tourism. International events offer France a unique opportunity to showcase their country, while giving the image of a safe and hospitable tourist environment. This has been done through events such as COP 21 and the Euro Cup. Additionally security measures have increased significantly since the attacks with soldiers being sent to the airport and major tourist attractions.
Despite these efforts, France’s tourism still remains at a season low due to the recent attacks. The idea of additional security can provide additional security, but provides the perception of increased fear and instability. This hinders the overall positive image of French tourism. France has made efforts to improve this also by changing their state of emergency to a state of high security.
History has demonstrated that countries can bounce back from significant terror attacks. This is evident during the 9/11 attacks in New York. Following these attacks, it took approximately three years for New York hotels to recover. If the 9/11 tourism recovery timeline is applied to France, France may still have about two more years until its tourism industry sees a return to pre-Paris attack levels. France may be able to speed up this recovery though its intensive focus on security and increased marketing.
Due to the nature of terrorist attacks, mitigation strategies are difficult to establish. Therefore, safety measures are more important. For France, the government has developed an app designed specifically for terrorist threats. The app gives users constant updates about possible attacks or situations out of the ordinary as well as basic instructions. Whether this app will mitigate the decrease in tourism is yet to be seen.
With time, the fear generated from the Paris attacks will fade. Although there was heavy fall in tourism following the attacks, Paris will eventually rebound. France hosts a number of the world’s most impressive tourist attractions, and being one of the most historically cultured countries in the world makes it a destination that tourisms will have a hard time forgoing.