Glimmers of hope for France’s struggling tourist industry

A woman wearing a mask walks in front of the Eiffel Tower, as the tourist industry in France has been badly affected by the coronavirus crisis. (Reuters)
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Updated 24 May 2020

Glimmers of hope for France’s struggling tourist industry

  • As in many other countries, the tourist industry in France has been badly affected by the coronavirus crisis

PARIS: Many people in France were happy to learn that with the easing of the nation’s lockdown, they might be able to take a summer vacation as normal in July or August.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe even encouraged them to go ahead and make bookings for destinations within France, safe in the knowledge that “the stakeholders of the tourism and hospitality sectors are committed to reimbursing them in full in the event the epidemic makes it impossible for them to go on vacation.”
International travel is another story, however, and caution is advised. Minister of State for European Affairs Amélie de Montchalin recommended that people hold off on booking trips to other European nations, adding: “There is not enough certainty surrounding the situation and what will be possible in two or three months.”
As in many other countries, the tourist industry in France has been badly affected by the coronavirus crisis. On May 14, the prime minister announced an €18 billion aid plan “to prevent the collapse of the tourism sector, which accounts for 8 percent of France’s GDP.”
While the return of domestic tourism is a welcome first step toward recovery, it is not yet clear whether French borders will remain closed to non-European visitors during the holiday season.
“For the time being, we have no idea,” said Rudy Salles, deputy mayor of Nice and former MP for the Maritime Alps region. One of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, it includes the French Riviera, Nice, Cannes and Monaco.
“The prime minister told us that the French can come on vacation. This is good news because up until now, people could not travel more than 100 kilometers from their main residence. Therefore, we are preparing a campaign to try and attract French customers.”
There are also hopes, he said, that the borders might soon open to travelers from other European nations.

HIGHLIGHT

French told to go ahead and book domestic vacations but chance of international visitors this summer remains uncertain

“A probable opening of inter-European borders has been discussed, which would mean that Europeans will be able to travel,” Salles said. “If this is the case, we think Germans, Swiss, Austrians and Scandinavians will be able to come to the French Riviera. That would be in July but, for now, nothing is certain.”
Salles said he has no idea when tourists from elsewhere in the world might be able to visit France, but added that flights from some parts of the Middle East are expected to resume later in the year.
“It looks as if the borders will remain closed to people coming from the US, Russia, and Asia,” he said. “Emirates and other Gulf airlines are expected to resume their flights by the autumn. We have not received any announcements about the summer but things can change very quickly.
“We are therefore unable to plan for the future since we have no reliable information.”
Many businesses and parks in Nice and on the French Riviera are open, Salles said, and the beaches are due to reopen this weekend.
“People will not be allowed to sit on their towels on the beach but they can go for walks there,” he added. “From June 2, restaurants, bars and cafes will also be open, along with hotels that were closed due to the lack of customers.
“The situation is the same all over the French Riviera. Nice, Antibes, Juan-les-Pins, Cannes and Saint-Tropez are all following the same regulations.
“We are working together with the Regional Council and the two Regional Tourism committees, the French Riviera Committee and the Committee for the South of France.”


New coronavirus cases in Hong Kong raise concerns of local cluster

Updated 24 min 4 sec ago

New coronavirus cases in Hong Kong raise concerns of local cluster

  • The infected woman is a night-shift worker at a Kerry Logistics warehouse
  • The government was expected to extend a ban on group gatherings larger than eight later on Tuesday

HONG KONG: A cluster of nine coronavirus cases raised concerns in Hong Kong over renewed local transmission in a city that has been one of the most successful in keeping the pandemic under control. The first two cases in the cluster — a husband and wife — were confirmed on Sunday. Since then four neighbors, two of the wife’s work colleagues, and a fire department medical officer who had sent the woman to hospital have been confirmed to have been infected. None had been abroad recently.
“We are very concerned about this cluster of nine,” Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam told her weekly news conference on Tuesday, before an executive council meeting.
The infected woman is a night-shift worker at a Kerry Logistics warehouse, where she labels food items imported from Britain, local media reported.
The government was expected to extend a ban on group gatherings larger than eight later on Tuesday. It was due to expire at the end of Thursday, and has been extended several times for two-week periods.
The limits on the size of gatherings prompted police to reject for the first time an application of the annual vigil tens of thousands of Hong Kong people traditionally hold in a downtown park to commemorate pro-democracy protesters killed in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square 31 years ago.
A further extension is also likely to thwart plans for legally organizing anniversary marches of the anti-government protests that started in June last year and resumed recently after Beijing announced plans to impose national security laws on Hong Kong.
Lam has repeatedly said health measures had no political motive. On Tuesday, she said they were not about “taking away people’s freedom,” but about protecting people, adding that public health was “also part of national security.”
As of Monday, Hong Kong had reported 1,088 coronavirus cases and four deaths.