Cafes close and hotels report dip in business

Sharp fall-off in tourists visiting Paris while fears of attack lead to traffic gridlock

French soldiers patrol near Notre Dame cathedral in Paris: dozens of armed soldiers outnumber the tourists taking pictures of the famous façade. Photograph: Peter Dejong/AP Photo

French soldiers patrol near Notre Dame cathedral in Paris: dozens of armed soldiers outnumber the tourists taking pictures of the famous façade. Photograph: Peter Dejong/AP Photo

 

Restaurants and cafes are closing early, tourists have all but vanished from the department stores and hotel bookings have fallen by half.

The streets of Paris, the most-visited city in the world, are normally bustling at this time of year, with parents bringing their children to the Christmas market on the Champs-Élysées, tourists drinking mulled wine at outdoor tables and queues forming at the big wheel on the Place de la Concorde. But this week, in the aftermath of the attacks that killed 129 people last Friday, the city has gone exceptionally quiet.

A sharp fall-off in tourists made it a difficult week for hoteliers, a situation made worse by the cancellation of some large-scale events that were due to take place this month.

Charlie Hebdo

Didier ChenetLibération

AccorHotels, the biggest French hotel group, said the fall-off was greater than after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in January. The figures bear this out: hotel revenue fell by an average of 7-8 per cent in the first two days after the attack on the magazine’s offices. Bookings dipped on certain days in the period immediately afterwards, but by the summer hotels were reporting business as usual.

Many of the city’s cafes and restaurants have been closing early for lack of customers. The Flo group, one of the biggest restaurant chains in Paris, said bookings were down by 50 per cent since Saturday.

Outnumbered by soldiers

Fear of further attacks may also explain why fewer people have taken public transport in recent days, resulting in traffic gridlock.

By yesterday most restaurants, shops and tourist attractions had reopened and were operating normally. Whether visitors come is another matter.

President François Hollande urged people to resume normal life as a way of demonstrating France will not be changed by terrorism: “France should remain as it is. Our duty is to carry on our lives.”

At the same time, the government is reminding people the risk of further attacks is high. France could be hit “in the coming days, in the comings weeks”, said prime minister Manuel Valls.