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Terror, strikes and rain: France sees 7% tourism drop

Paris (AFP): The number of tourists visiting France has dropped seven percent since January, with foreigners deterred by terror attacks but also by bad weather and transport strikes, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Monday.

“Tourist arrivals since the start of the year have fallen by seven percent across the country,” with Paris worst- hit, said Ayrault, who is also tourism minister.

France is the world’s top tourist destination. The sector accounts for around nine percent of its gross domestic product (GDP).

The industry has been struck a severe blow from attacks by Islamic State jihadists, shuttering festivals and other public events and prompting jittery visitors to stay away.

“The attacks partly explain these disappointing trends. The perception of risk has an influence on some clients, notably the wealthiest or those from Asia,” said Ayrault.

He said that economic difficulties in countries such as Russia and Brazil have also affected visitor numbers from those countries.

Pictures of flood-ridden streets — the result of 50 more days of rain in the second quarter compared to normal levels — and public-sector strikes also played a part, he added.

Paris alone has seen an 11.4-percent drop in hotel nights and a loss of one billion euros ($1.1 billion) in income since January, said Francois Navarro, of the Regional Tourism Board.

He said there had been falls of 46.2 percent in Japanese tourists to the Paris region, 35 percent in Russian visitors and a 27 percent drop in the number of Italians.

A terror attack in Paris in November last year that killed 130 people led to a drop in tourist numbers.

Officials had hoped the trend would reverse after the successful hosting of the Euro football championship in July.

But just days after the end of the competition a Tunisian believed to be acting for the Islamic State group rammed a lorry into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the Riviera city of Nice, killing 86 people.

The attack led to numerous summer events being cancelled due to security fears.