High-kicking dancers are enthralling full houses again at the Moulin Rouge and art lovers are swarming the Louvre as Paris enjoys a tourism revival after plummeting numbers brought on by terror attacks.
Tourists are increasingly refusing to give in to fear of being caught up in an extremist attack such as the November 2015 bloodbath in the French capital and flocking in droves once more.
Paris saw a record 2.6 million foreign arrivals in the first four months of this year, a 19 per cent increase over the same period in 2016.
Moulin Rouge enjoyed a brief uptick but a series of events — street protests against labour reforms, foul weather, and a truck rampage in the city of Nice — combined “to completely wipe out the recovery,” said Jean-Victor Clerico, an official at the world’s most famous cabaret.
Since then terror attacks have become more frequent and widespread, hitting not just France but also Belgium, Britain and Germany, sparking “a kind of fatalism”, said Josette Sicsic, head of Touriscopie, a firm that tracks tourist behaviour.
Terror attacks “are affecting tourism for shorter and shorter periods”, Sicsic said. The tourism ministry expects a five to six per cent increase in overall arrivals to France this year, for a new record of 89 million visitors in 2017.
The lowest point for Paris came at the end of March 2016 — four and a half months after the Paris attacks, when IS group extremists targeted people enjoying an evening out at trendy eateries, a concert hall and the national stadium. The shootings and bombings left 130 people dead.
Some 14.5 million people visited the capital overall in 2016, a drop of five per cent from the previous year.
It is Chinese tourists, as well as Americans, who are expected to set new records this year.
Sicsic said potential tourists have concluded they “can be hit by a terrorist act in their country of origin or when travelling (so) you can’t keep boycotting Paris, London and so on”.
Enjoying a salad on the terrace of a Champs-Elysees restaurant, 25-year-old Alexa Derby said she and her family have “felt pretty safe the whole time we’ve been here.” South African housewife Susan Sobel, 64, visiting Paris for the second time since 2007, said: “You have to seize the moment and hopefully you’ll be safe.” — AFP
Gina Doggett and Paul Gypteau