Friday, October 7

Tourists (and dirt) return to the city of light

“We are very happy that the foreign tourists have come back.” Marion Maurel, 55, runs a grocery store old posters at the flea market in Saint Ouen and he does not hide his satisfaction at one of the novelties of this summer in Paris: the return of foreign visitors. “I have the feeling that now spend more than before of the pandemic. After years in which people suffered deprivation of freedom, now they want to enjoy the present”, explains this vendor in statements to El Periódico, after having ordered publicity images of the Belle Epoque and movie posters Nouvelle Vague.

It was four in the afternoon on a Monday Of summer and in this emblematic place in the north of the French capital a feeling of deja vu. After two summers in which the largest antiques market in Europe had been left half deserted, numerous customers meandered through the alleys where stands of nineteenth-century furniture, tapestries or crockery follow one another. “For two months we have felt a growing presence of foreign tourists. But we are still far from the levels of 2019,” says Pascal Everio, 58, who has been in charge of a book store for more than three decades.

“We hear English, Spanish and Italian again at the flea market. We face this summer with great enthusiasm”, says Albert Rodriguez, president of the Saint-Ouen market. “Foreign travelers represent 80% of our clientele,” says Rodriguez, who believes that “it is too early to know if we will achieve a turnover similar to that of before covid-19.”

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“Enough hotels with the full sign”

Paris welcomed 12.1 million tourists between January and June of this year, according to data from the City Council. This is a figure clearly higher than the 3.7 million visitors during the same period in 2021, but lower than the 15.1 million the year before the appearance of covid-19. This trend was confirmed during the month of July, when, for example, the number of visitors to the Arc de Triomphe increased by 19%. The long queues to enter the Louvre museum also returned.

The French capital, which was the main world tourist destination in 2019, with nearly 80% of foreign travelers, especially suffered the impact of the pandemic. On the other hand, other summer areas, such as the Côte d’Azur, managed to compensate for the situation thanks to national tourism. “In the center of Paris, the summer is going very well. There are quite a few hotels that put up the full sign, although there are some mansion (luxury establishments) that did not open all their floors”, highlights Jean-Marc Banquet d’Orx, general president of the Union of Trades of the Hotel Industry (UMIH, according to the acronym in French) in the Paris region.

However, this person in charge of the tourist employer recognizes that the “situation It’s much more complicated.” on the outskirts of the French capital. There, the hotels worked with “large groups of Asians, who have not yet returned to travel”, indicates Banquet d’Orx. The great novelty this summer is the presence of North American tourists, while the Chinese and Russians are the great absentees.

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The growing presence of travelers is noticeable in those points of greatest tourist interest, such as the area of ​​the Eiffel Tower, the most visited paying monument in the world. “Now we value being here much more. It is the first time that we have traveled outside of Europe since the start of the pandemic ”, boasts Antonio Tarecena, 70 years old, a Mexican who accompanied the woman and his teenage daughter on the esplanade of Trocadero, where there are the best views of the famous telecommunications tower. “We had planned this trip to Paris for a long time. But we had to cancel it twice, since we were afraid of covid-19, ”explains Nora, a Saudi tourist in the middle of a crowd of visitors who take selfies.

Dirt and insecurity at the Eiffel Tower

Beside them was a group of a dozen policemen patrolling the area. The return of tourists has been welcomed with open arms by the businesses that depend on them, such as flea market vendors, but it has also brought problems of filth and insecurity in the Eiffel Tower area.

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“More and more tourists are complaining of being robbed. In most cases it is theft, but there have also been necklaces ripped off and mobile phones snatched from hands”, explains Sarah, 28, who works for the RATP (metropolitan transport company) as an information agent at the metro stop of Trocadero, where they form long queues of travelers. Some of them become cannon fodder for pickpockets. Many of them are very young migrants, often minors and who often suffer from drug addiction problems. A profile similar to that of the perpetrators of robberies and assaults during the Champions League final.

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Despite its unquestionable beauty, not everything is brilliant in the City of Light. Especially now that it is once again a destination for mass tourism.

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