On November 13, 2015, the lights went out in the City of Lights, figuratively speaking.
A coordinated terrorist attack claimed the lives of 130 and injured 368. It was the deadliest strike on Paris since World War II, and it put the vacation plans of tens of thousands of tourists on “hold.”
The French tourism industry is still feeling the repercussions. One in ten people who had planned to visit are now postponing their trips to Paris, says a new survey by Travel Leaders Group, and that’s a shame.
French hotels estimate that they have lost north of $292 million, and their occupancy rates will continue to be adversely affected. Air France-KLM reported lost revenues of $76 million in December because of lower bookings to France. The Eiffel Tower has fewer visitors, and Japan Airlines continues to suspend flights between Tokyo and Paris through at least March 15. They say the decrease in demand is driving this decision.
What should a tourist do? Is it safe to go to Paris?
Travel Leaders Group recently surveyed 1,316 U.S.-based travel agency owners, managers and travel agents about their bookings to France. They asked, “Have the events unfolding in France caused your clients to cancel or delay travel to France?”
- 34.3 percent said “No, not at all; my clients are continuing with their immediate or future/long-term travel plans.”
- 20.2 percent said “Yes, some or most of my clients are delaying or canceling their trips.”
- The remaining 45.5 percent of agents did not have bookings for France when they were surveyed, which Travel Leaders Group says is not atypical for November and December.
It seems that, on the whole, American travelers who use a travel agent are not abandoning Paris. But if you’re concerned about going there or to more dangerous places, there are some things you should keep in mind before you say “no.”
Register your trip with the U.S. Department of State. Registering allows the U.S. Embassy to contact you in case something happens, could potentially help your family or friends find you, and allows the Embassy to get information to you about any deteriorating safety conditions.
Do a little research. Check out the State Department’s alerts and warnings for travel. Check out local newspapers. Consider staying in tourist areas that are likely to be more heavily policed. And keep in mind that just because someone else had a bad experience doesn’t mean you will.
Don’t look like a tourist. One of my pet peeves the year I lived in Hungary was Americans whose appearance and attitude said “I am an American!” Americans are generally loud, obnoxious and conspicuous. Stay safe by blending in, acting like the locals, and wearing nondescript clothes; don’t bring expensive jewelry and watches, and don’t flash cash around.
Communicate your plan, especially if you’re traveling alone. Make sure someone at home has your itinerary. If it changes, send them a text, or update your Facebook status. If traveling alone, be sure to keep a friend or family member updated. If you don’t check in, they’ll know to contact someone to make sure you’re okay.
Be careful if you get your drink on. Alcohol impairs judgment and the ability to make good decisions, and can make you a target for criminals. Use alcohol in moderation.
Whether it’s Paris or any other place that might be considered dangerous, you don’t necessarily have to stay away. In fact, your tourist dollars could help an economy that is hurting. And if you do go, keep your head up, make good decisions and blend in.