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Analysis

Another hard blow for French tourism after deadly attack on the French Riviera

Emotions are still running high on Nice’s iconic Promenade des Anglais after the minute’s silence that brought dozens of thousands together on Monday. Families, friends and fellow citizens gathered to show their support and share their sorrow with a whole community, in a city usually so welcoming and festive during the summer months.

The truck attack that killed 84 people in Nice and injured dozens of locals and tourists alike is the first terror act of its kind ever recorded in the French Riviera. Along with the shock and horror prompted among the population, the consequences of this dreadful event are already affecting arrivals at the destination. Within two days following the attack, hotels across Nice’s metropolitan area registered a 20-point drop in occupancy compared to the same period last year; from Biot to Cannes, from Mougins to Grasse, from Antibes to Saint-Laurent du Var, and of course in the city of Nice proper, the hospitality industry has taken another hit. Similarly, a decrease in average daily rates led to a 23% drop in RevPAR on Sunday, July 17.



After many tourists decided to cut their vacation short after this tragic Bastille day, activity may decline further due to the cancellation of reservations registered by local hoteliers. Cancellations of festive events, such as the Rihanna concert originally planned on July 15 or the last few days of the Jazz à Juan Festival, added to the difficulties affecting the tourism and hospitality industry in the region.

Looking to the future will be a hard task in the upcoming weeks. Performance during the months of July and August is traditionally boosted by the arrival of large Middle-Eastern delegations at the villas and palaces of the French Riviera, generating significant economic benefits. It is to be feared that for some of them, the Côte d’Azur may fall out of favor compared to other Mediterranean destinations.

The impact on Nice and its surroundings can be compared to those experienced shortly after the November 2015 attacks in Paris and Saint-Denis that left 130 people dead. In terms of occupancy, hotel performances were impacted in a similar way. In the French capital, activity bounced back slowly in the weeks and months following the attacks. While the willingness to overcome terror and not give in to fear enabled tourism to bounce back after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January 2015, Paris is still struggling to recover after the second hit that struck nine months ago. Hoteliers can already observe a two-digit disparity compared to the same period the previous year, adding to the growing difficulties already endured by many.

“In the past years, experience has proven that life is stronger than violence and fear, and that most people just wish to return to normal life. Tourism and international travel, even for the most affected destinations, used to quickly recover and return to their prior levels,” said Georges Panayotis, President of MKG Group. “However, terrorism used to be an occasional, limited phenomenon – and this is no longer the case, as premeditated acts of organized cells or disturbed individuals are now part of the environment. Our societies are accepting the idea that we now live in a troubled and uncertain world. In France, Belgium, the United States, the Middle East, Africa or Asia, violence may have different names and faces, yet it has become a part of the global landscape, like a sword of Damocles looming over our heads.”

Moreover, given the significance of the tourism industry for the French economy and the European-wide impact of the attacks, Georges Panayotis added: “Just like in the case of other damaged sectors, it appears necessary to offer an economic recovery plan in order to revive the activity, while at the same time ensuring the security of visitors. In order to achieve these objectives, European coordination appears to be not only necessary, but in fact essential.”

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