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What impact of the Coronavirus crisis on French tourism so far?

While the Coronavirus crisis is raging in Asia, the disruption of trade with China, the source of the epidemic, raises the question of the consequences for tourism in France, particularly in the hotel sector. Hospitality ON draws up a first overview of the situation in January and at the beginning of February.

While flights to China by Air France-KLM, Lufthansa, IAG, Turkish Airlines and Finnair have been cancelled until March, Chinese customers are leaving for France, particularly the capital. It has already been two weeks since the air connections between France and China were cut. The question is therefore to resume the route to/from Shanghai and Beijing gradually from mid-March or to Wuhan towards the end of March, as far as the Air France-KLM group is concerned.

In the meantime, cancellations by Chinese tourists are pouring in the French hotel sector. But in reality, as our partner, Vanguelis Panayotis, Chairman of the MKG group, explains on the BFM TV channel (video below in French), the impact is however relative, limited to certain hotels in the capital where Chinese tourists represent a large part of their clientele. On the scale of the market in Île-de-France, stays by Chinese nationals represent only 4.4% of the market, or 5.0% of overnight stays for 101.9 million overnight stays recorded in 2018.

The few hotels impacted by the drop in Chinese tourist arrivals are the upscale Parisian hotels. Actually, the impact is only felt in early February. As the daily results below show, the rest of January is rather spared. On the contrary, the results show that the market is up sharply compared to January 2019, which was heavily impacted by the “Gilets Jaunes” crisis last year.

The occupancy rate (OR) of Parisian upscale hotel supply increased by 6.18 percentage points over the period from January 1 to February 12, 2020, compared with the same period last year. The OR was therefore 69.51% on average over the 43-day period, compared with 63.06% in 2019. The last days of the period nevertheless suggest a period of decline, as since February 6, a decline in activity has been observed, with a record drop to -13.02 points of occupancy on Wednesday, February 12 (OR 63.87%).

Since the beginning of February, tourist exchanges between the two countries have indeed slowed down considerably. On 4 February, the SETO (Syndicat des Entreprises du Tour Operating) met with the main tour operators working in China, at the end of which it was recommended to all stakeholders to suspend and postpone all departures to China until Tuesday 31 March 2020 included.

On the French side, the airports of Paris Charles de Gaulle and Saint-Denis de la Réunion have been handling people coming from China or Hong Kong since 25 January. This is a system "provided by the staff of approved civil security associations in conjunction with the airport medical service and reinforced by medical and paramedical health professionals from the Ministry of Health's medical reserve".

A little later, 8 February was marked by the appearance of a "cluster" (which in this case means "a grouping of several cases around an initial case") identified in Haute-Savoie, in the city of Contamines-Montjoi. It allegedly consists in five British tourists staying in a chalet, who were infected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19), including four adults and a child, by the intermediary of one of the members of the group who had returned from a stay in Singapore. A sixth person is also reported to have recently reported symptoms of the disease, who has been placed "in strict isolation in hospital since that time".

Although rather unscathed so far, the question of the impact of Coronavirus on tourism now arises through the incident in Haute-Savoie on the ski tourist season in the Alps, or on a wider scale, on tourism in France in the medium term.

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