Last month’s terrorist attacks in Paris stunned the French and the rest of the world. These hideous, inhuman crimes go beyond words and happen with a recurring frequency, which the terrorists hope will kill-off the “Joie de Vivre” that so symbolizes this country. But they are wrong. I took clients back to Paris the day after the attacks, to their hotel (which they refused to cancel!) and it is true that the streets were empty and those few people we saw looked both shocked and saddened. And despite French government’s reaction in putting France on maximum alert and closing public places such as the Eiffel Tower, Disneyland Paris, this didn’t dampen the French or the Parisien attitude of “the show must go on”. Flights from various countries were understandably cancelled along with hotel rooms, but this was only temporary.
One month on and we have seen people back in the cafés and restaurant, iconic bands like U2 playing in Paris and even Madonna gave an impromptu concert at la Place de la République in Paris yesterday. Yes Paris has that effect on people.
But this shouldn’t surprise us and neither should the love that people from around the world have showed for this capital and this country. Hearing the French anthem sung by the English at a friendly football match at Wembley between the two countries, a week after the attack, made me both proud to be English and also to live and work in this country. France has produced so many beautiful things for the world to enjoy: French cuisine, great wines and spirits, fashion, culture, architecture, litterature…they have set standards in quality and originality that we can only but admire.
I used to get asked if I though the French were arrogant. No, I replied, no more than you or I. What may be perceived as arrogance is really, in my opinion, only an incomprehension of the rest of the world’s lack of “savoir faire”! What we see as magnificent, they see as normal…
France is, by far, the world’s most popular destination for international tourists, welcoming around 84 million visitors from abroad last year, nearly 10 million more than the US, which is in second place (the USA is 14 times the size of France!). Directly and indirectly, tourism accounts for around 9% of French GDP and 10% of total employment, according the World Travel Coucil. “Any lasting damage to French tourism will depress the country’s already shaky economy”…or will it?
Travel and tourism in France contributes around 80 million euros to Frances GDP, employs nearly 3 million people and accounts for almost 11% of total employment! I believe that France will become even more attractive in the years to come, despite tourism threats. This year alone has seen the addition of the famous Champagne houses & cellars and part of Burgundy’s fine wine region to UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Paris is beautiful, but there is so much more of the authentic, rural France to be discovered…I have lived in both Provence and Burgundy and have extensively travelled this country. Every region has its own food and wine culture…and they go so well together.
So who wins? Tourism, of course. In a recent report, Deloitte noted that the time it takes for hotel occupancy rates to recover after terrorist attacks has shortened in recent years. This is down to “a shift in mentality among consumers and companies over the last decade, with the emergence of a ‘carry on as normal’ culture in response to terrorism,” it said.
So take my advice, discover this beautiful country and all it has to offer. This is something terrorism will never take away.