January 12, 2015
Representatives of the Paris tourist industry will set off on a world tour next month to reassure visitors and agents that the French capital is safe and open for business after last week's fatal shootings by Islamist militants.
France, which is struggling to get economic growth going, is the most visited country in the world. Almost 85 million foreigners a year support a EUR€150 billion (USD$177 billion) industry that delivers 7 percent of the nation's GDP, according to government figures.
In Ile-de-France, a region which includes Paris, 550,000 jobs depend on tourism, making it the biggest industry there. The city had 47 million visitors in 2014, about half of them from abroad.
"We're going to the UK at the end of February, to Los Angeles in March, Italy, Spain and Germany in April, Hong Kong in May and Tokyo in June," said Francois Navarro, Managing Director of the Comité Régional du Tourisme Paris Ile-de-France, a body financed by the regional government.
In the meantime the organisation is telling embassies and tour operators that the city's museums, monuments, big stores and amusement parks have more police watching them, "and at the airports, at this stage, it won't take longer to travel by plane even though security has been reinforced", he said.
Earlier on Monday the French government said it would deploy 10,000 soldiers on home soil by Tuesday and post almost 5,000 extra police officers.
The shooting dead of 17 people in three days marked the deadliest Islamist militant attacks in France for decades, and in any European city since 57 people were killed on London's transport system in 2005.
Navarro said his organisation had made inquiries among tour operators and travel agents around the world, and that so far there had been no impact, with no cancellations expected.
He said he was confident Paris would manage a slight increase in the number of visitors this year, with growth notably coming from the Middle East, South Korea and China.
In 2013, the vast majority of visitors to France were from other European countries, but about 3.1 million were from the United States and 1.7 million from China, according to government figures.