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Terrorists Attacks affect Paris Economy

The first wave of canceled reservations struck Le Bristol with crushing force after last weekend’s terrorist attacks, across town from the five-star hotel and its elite Right Bank neighborhood. Within 72 hours, the tally of lost bookings exceeded a half-million euros — more than $530,000. New York Times reports
New York Times reported that on Saturday morning, tourists and their wheelie bags were steadily rolling out of the Best Western Opera Diamond, a boutique hotel a short walk from the Palais Garnier opera house, making a hasty departure after the shootings and bombings about two miles east had left 129 dead. More than 50 percent of the hotel’s reservations were canceled immediately afterward, until the cascade of calls tapered off. Then the phones went virtually silent, with no new bookings.
Next came Wednesday’s shootout with terrorists in St.-Denis, just north of the city, which did nothing to make tourists and business travelers assume calm had returned to Paris.
Among the businesses and industries hardest hit by the Paris terrorist attacks, few may be bearing more of the brunt than the hotel industry here in one of the world’s favorite travel destinations. The Paris hotel trade encompasses 1,600 hotels that in a good year might generate €4.4 billion or more in revenue. But suddenly, this is shaping up as anything but a stellar year.
Within 72 hours of the Paris attacks, the luxury hotel Le Bristol lost bookings exceeded a half-million euros — more than $530,000. Credit Guia Besana for The New York Times
“Right now we are not getting new reservations — we live in times that I have never seen,” said Jean-Bernard Falco, president of the Paris Inn Group, which owns the Diamond. He lost a colleague in the Friday night assault on the Bataclan theater. “Our country declared war and a state of emergency. But the best message to counter terrorists and fanatics is for tourists to come back to France and Paris to show solidarity for our way of life.”
That plea for international fraternité has become the mantra of worried executives in Paris’s hotel and tourism industry, who gathered on Wednesday for an emergency meeting organized by a regional tourist board to take stock of the damage and to share information. They are nervously watching every economic barometer, including cancellations of business and government conferences — and of the bookings of meeting rooms and banquet halls that such gatherings entail.
The three-day conference of French mayors that was expected to bring in 30,000 people to Paris this week has been postponed until May 31.
And the United Nations conference on climate change, which is scheduled to begin Nov. 30 and run for two weeks, was expected to bring 40,000 visitors to the city and serve as the hub of countless dinners and receptions. But citing security concerns, the French government has ordered the conference to be scaled back to the bare essentials, resulting in the cancellation of more than 200 planned events around the city.
Paris is not the only city hunkering down. On Thursday, the city of Lyon, in France’s Rhône-Alpes region, canceled its annual festival of lights, which usually draws two million to three million people in early December.
“The real question now is if there will be consequences for the Christmas holidays,” said François Navarro, the managing director of the Paris Regional Committee on Tourism. “We have had a lot of cancellations from Japanese tourists who are very concerned about security. We hope that business will start to revive by the end of the week.”
But that will depend on whether anxieties start to subside in a city and country still on edge. On Wednesday, two Air France flights bound for Paris were diverted because of bomb threats, which turned out to be false. Galeries Lafayette, a prime department store destination for bus tours of Chinese visitors on marathon shopping sprees, evacuated customers Wednesday afternoon after a false report that an abandoned car contained a bomb.
France still retains a huge and resilient allure; it is the top destination in the world with 83.7 million visitors last year, ahead of the United States with 74.8 million, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
Thomas Deschamps, the head of research at the Paris Tourism Office, said that city businesses recovered within two months after the January shootings that targeted the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher market. They were aided, he said, by rising visits from American tourists, who were spending with a stronger dollar.
But this time, he said the attacks had a deeper impact because the targets were more generalized — a theater and restaurants, the types of places where tourists linger.
“If there is a continuing drop in the hotel occupancy rate, then there are going to be repercussions for the luxury trade and the restaurants with fewer visitors,” Mr. Deschamps said. Paris’s occupancy rate fell by 20 percent on Saturday from Friday and an additional 20 percent on Sunday, the most recent days for which figures were available.
Paris department store sales this week are down by as much as 50 percent from typical mid-November levels, according to CDF, the association of merchants in France.
Among hotels, those hardest hit by the flight of tourists are the capital’s grand palaces of luxury rooms. “The wealthy clients are extremely sensitive to security issues and atmosphere, and they have the means to cancel a vacation,” said Didier Chenet, the president of Synhorcat, a trade group for restaurant and hotel owners.
Historic hotels like Le Bristol, which since 1925 has been a magnet for celebrities from Charlie Chaplin to Brad Pitt, were already facing intense competition with the arrival of newcomers like the Peninsula hotel.
Didier Le Calvez, managing director of Le Bristol, met with his board at the hotel on Wednesday to evaluate the losses. Outside, soldiers in bulletproof vests patrolled the street near the Élysée Palace, residence of President François Hollande of France. Inside, the hotel tried to create an atmosphere of calm, with a table for hotel guests spread for tea and laden with plates of raisin scones and miniature gingerbread men.
Mr. Le Calvez said it was too early to talk about government aid for the hotel industry, which some of the hotel and tourist trade groups were pressing for, like a temporary suspension of hotel taxes. “I was discussing this with my board,” Mr. Le Calvez said. “I cannot assess what will be the business losses for the next six months. Let’s go a step at a time, and let’s first mourn the dead.”
Executives at some other five-star hotels like the Four Seasons George V, near the Champs Élysées, and the Saint James Paris, are reluctant to discuss the issue, although other hoteliers say they are suffering. Instead, in their own discreet fashion, they are appealing to customers to show solidarity by returning.
On Wednesday, the St. James sent out email messages to some regular New York clients with a photo of bright orange autumn leaves and the Eiffel Tower.
“We will all keep a place in our hearts for the victims of mindless terrorism,” wrote Laure Pertusier, the hotel’s general manager. “And the best way to do so is to keep doing what we do best: Celebrate life in a city that is an international symbol for love.”

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