Paris is the primary attraction in the principal destination in Europe. The publicity associated with the events of 2015 and 2016 have led to a softening of its appeal in such long haul origin markets as the US, Japan and China. Many visitors who would normally have come have chosen not to do so: amidst a decline of 8% of international arrivals in Paris, the Chinese and Japanese have seen shortfalls as high as 25%.
This has a significance beyond France. “Our members sell Europe as a destination all over the world,” said Mario Bodini, Chairman of ETOA. “Paris is a central element of any European tourist offer: if there is a “best seller” on the long-haul markets, it is a joint package of London and Paris. That Paris has suffered a decline in bookings in 2016 has impacted demand throughout Europe.”
According to Paul Wagner, Director of Travel Plaza (JTB), “Paris is the main gateway to Europe for a large number of long-haul markets. It is through France that our clients visit the UK, Benelux, Germany, Italy and Spain. The magic of Paris itself is the major asset of many European programs and earlier these markets return to Paris in their usual number, the faster the whole of Western Europe will rebound from the lull of 2016. Paris is the principal jewel for the European sector of our group.”
The industry is making real efforts to turn this situation around. “France has always been a top destination for Kuoni” said Dalila Belouchat, the Senior Contracts Manager “so we have redoubled our efforts offering exclusive new products to our sales offices around the world. All the contract managers in Asia have met directly with the Asian agents to boost this business. I spent a week in Japan to make a presentation about France to our vendors and to meet our Japanese tour operators. I am sure the business will return to France in 2017: we already have series bookings. This is a strong and positive signal.”
There are positive signs that similar initiatives are working. Helping this has been a real willingness in France to work with the trade. Andrew Guthrie, Director of Purchasing and Operations at JacTravel, notes that “despite the latest setbacks, the level of group requests and confirmed groups for France is up by 20% in 2017 on 2016. This is largely due to the excellent cooperation we receive from our main French suppliers today.”
Tom Jenkins, CEO of ETOA, added “We have been here before. Much of the damage caused by terrorists lies in the response to them, and how we handle that reaction. Confidence always returns, particularly for a destination as appealing as Paris. It was to assert this and to recognise the connectivity of European tourism, that we were delighted to welcome the Moulin Rouge to our annual dinner in London this year. ”