Terror attacks blamed for sharp fall in Paris tourism.

Paris, Feb. 21: One-and-a-half million fewer tourists visited the Paris region last year and the November 2015 terrorist attacks are being blamed. Hotel reservations in the French capital were down nearly nine percent, according to a report released Tuesday by The Regional Tourism Committee.

Tourism picked up at the end of the year “which makes us think we are exiting a long tunnel,” said Frederic Valletoux, president of the Regional Tourism Committee and a conservative member of Parliament. In all 31 million people stayed in the region’s hotels in 2016.

The drop is a serious blow to the Paris area, known as the Ile de France, where 500,000 people work in the tourism industry which makes up ten percent of the region’s GDP. “It is the number one economic sector for the Ile de France,” Valletoux said.

Hotel reservations nose-dived immediately after the November 2015 attacks and began to pick up last Summer but fell once again after the Nice attack which killed 86 people. The biggest drop was in Japanese tourism: down 41.2% or 225,000 fewer visitors.

The Chinese contingent, the third largest, sent 21.5% fewer tourists to the City of Lights, or 268,000 people. But Chinese tourism has also been hurt by organized pickpocketing gangs who target them because they are known to carry cash.

The report says Europeans stayed away too. Italy saw a 26.1% drop in the number of visitors. Britain and Spain were also down a little less than 10%.

There was little fall in the number of tourists from the US, contradicting affirmations that Americans are the most frightened of terrorism.  Two-point-one million Americans visited Paris last year, falling 4.9% from 2015 or 100,000 fewer.

France remains, however, the world’s number one tourist destination. French Foreign Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, said last week some 83 million foreign visitors came to the country in 2016 as compared to 85 million the previous year. “2016 will remain a special year because of the terror attacks, bad weather and protest movements,” Ayrault said.

Frederic Valletoux of the Tourism Committee agreed saying demonstrations and sit-ins “sent many visitors to the outskirts. They wanted to avoid Paris.

Major attractions in Paris were hard hit by the decline, according to the report. Disneyland Paris lost 9.5% of its business, the Louvre Museum was down 13.3%,  Versailles 9.8%, Pompidou Center 9% and the Orsay Museum had 12.9% fewer visitors. The hardest hit seem to be those with the fewest exits such as the Montparnasse Tower (-32%) and the Arc de Triumph (-24%).

One positive sign, according to the report, is that the Paris region last year saw its highest number of business visitors ever recorded. The French hope that Paris will take over from London as Europe’s financial hub once the UK leaves the European Union.