French tourism firms call for special police force

© Eric Gaillard
Giants of the French tourism industry, including Disneyland and the Galeries Lafayette department store, have written an open letter to the French government, calling for the establishment of a special police force.

The note on “serious crisis” that affects French tourism was sent by Alliance 46.2, which includes 21 leading companies in the French tourism sector. As well as Galeries Lafayette and Disneyland Paris, Aéroports de Paris and SNCF railway operator were among the signatories. 

According to the letter, the French tourism industry is concerned about the loss of competitiveness which was affected by last November’s terrorist attacks in Paris and numerous demonstrations against the labour reform that took place in the French capital this spring.

“This spring saw a combination of unusually violent demonstrations, blocking oil supplies, public attacks on a police cars image … strikes in the aviation sector,” the association said, adding that it is calling on the French government to introduce special task forces to provide security in Paris streets.

When a country of 66 million inhabitants hosts 84 million tourists, it is normal to introduce a special police force,” the association said.

This year has been particularly difficult for French tourism, the letter said, adding that the country has seen a 4-5 percent decline in the number of visitors this year.

"The image of France has deeply deteriorated and it's likely that 2017 will still feel the impact. The recovery may therefore be long," it said.

France has been on high alert since January 2015, when it was hit by a series of Islamic State-linked terrorist attacks.

The biggest loss of life took place in November 2015, when at least 130 people were killed in Paris, a major tourist destination. On July 14, at least 84 people were killed when a truck driven by an IS sympathizer plowed through crowds during Bastille Day celebrations in Nice.

Since then the French tourism industry has seen huge losses. According to French Tourism Minister Matthias Fekl, overnight stays in French hotels dropped 10 percent in July 2016 compared to 2015, with the wealthiest travelers from outside Europe turning their backs on the country.

In August, Disneyland Paris reported falling sales and revenue in the third quarter as security concerns hit tourism. Sales dropped 9 percent to €327 million ($365 million) between April and June, it said in a statement. The park’s turnover for April-June was also down 13 percent to €182 million, with visitor numbers dropping 11 percent and the average visitor spending 2 percent less.